Boston College’s new institute for integrated science, which will create a multi-disciplinary, collaborative research process to address critical societal issues in the areas of energy, health and the environment, will be named in honor of BC Trustee Phil Schiller ’82 and his wife, Kim Gassett-Schiller, through a multi-year lead gift totaling $25 million.
The Schiller Institute for Integrated Science and Society will be the centerpiece of a new 150,000 square-foot science facility scheduled for construction beginning in the spring of 2019 at a cost of roughly $150 million. The new building will represent the largest single investment in the sciences at Boston College. To date, more than $100 million has been raised for the new facility.
The mission of the Schiller Institute will be to create and sustain emerging initiatives in basic and applied science; educate the next generation of science and technology leaders and innovators; develop and deploy new tools and technologies to address important societal problems; and promote partnerships with industry and the public and private sectors. Through the institute, Boston College will explore new interdisciplinary courses in integrated and applied sciences, design thinking, implementation science, computer and data science, global public health and other fields that will combine elements of technology, engineering and entrepreneurship through collaboration with BC’s professional schools and its Shea Center for Entrepreneurship.
The Schiller Institute will be located in a new science facility adjacent to Higgins Hall, which houses BC’s Biology and Physics departments, and the Merkert Center, home to BC’s Chemistry Department. It will feature office and laboratory space for researchers, including engineering faculty, and teaching laboratories that will include computer science robotics and data visualization space. It will provide maker spaces to give students hands-on experiences in prototyping research, a clean room, and a collaboration commons for faculty and students. The new facility will also include space for BC’s Computer Science Department and Shea Center, as well as classrooms for its core courses, all of which will foster faculty and student cooperation across departments and schools, strengthen teaching and research in the sciences, and enhance the University’s ability to advance the common good through research focused on pressing global problems.
University President William P. Leahy, S.J., praised the Schillers for their generosity, which enabled this intersection of their philanthropic goals with Boston College’s strategic priorities.
"I am deeply grateful to Phil and Kim for their longstanding commitment to Boston College and its mission. Their generous gift will benefit not only generations of BC students but also wider society in coming decades," said Fr. Leahy. "I am confident that the Schiller Institute will play a key role in helping the University address pressing needs of our day in such areas as health, environment, and energy through quality teaching and research."
Added Provost and Dean of Faculties David Quigley, “The Schiller Institute will serve as a University crossroad for science and innovation that will integrate our existing strengths in the sciences with longstanding research strengths in the humanities, social sciences and the professional schools. The institute will advance Boston College’s distinction as a natural leader in integrated science, and a university that directs its research efforts to addressing the most challenging societal problems.”
Phil Schiller, the senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Apple and a member of its executive team, described the new Institute of Integrated Science as a dream come true.
“Boston College students are so vibrant, energetic and eager to take on the world and solve big, complex problems, which is just what we want from the next generation of leaders,” he said.
“The integrated science program will build on the talents that are here at Boston College, including our great students and their desire to do things in a new way—with meaning and purpose—to advance the scientific process in a multidisciplinary approach that Boston College is uniquely positioned to accomplish within American higher education. To us, it makes perfect sense to create an Institute for Integrated Science and Society that enables our students to achieve their goals by providing them with the resources they need to do so.”
Kim Gassett-Schiller, who serves as a trustee at Rhode Island School of Design and is a member of the Salem State University Foundation, offered a similar perspective.
“Phil and I have always supported universities because we believe that it is important to invest in our students and in their future,” she said. “Science is really important, because it not only answers questions, but asks questions, which lead to other avenues for exploration. The Institute for Integrated Science and Society is committed to using scientific research to provide answers to the difficult questions facing the world today. That is why I am excited to support this institute, particularly at this crucial time.”
In fulfillment of its mission to address global needs, the Schiller Institute will aim to develop clean energy technologies that are vital to alleviating poverty and protecting health; create novel technologies to diagnose and treat human diseases in resource-poor areas around the globe; and work in areas such as remote sensing and clean water supply development to address the impact of environmental degradation.
This investment in the sciences will further BC’s momentum in scientific research, which was underscored by the University’s designation in 2016 as an “R1” institution by the Carnegie Foundation, a classification for doctoral universities with the highest levels of research activity. Boston College is one of only 115 universities nationally to achieve this distinction.
“One of the things that I admire most about Boston College is its commitment to liberal arts education,” said Phil Schiller. “And looking back, what attracted me to Apple was its commitment to combining technology with humanities to really make a difference. What is important is when we stop to ask, ‘Why does this matter?’ ‘How does it help to make someone’s life better?’ When we consider things from the perspective of the humanities, we start to create things in a different way—with purpose.
“The institute’s focus on combining technology and the humanities and its commitment to collaboration and innovation as a defining principle is very exciting. This is where the best work comes from, as diverse minds with different experiences try to understand a problem together and solve things as a team. That is where big leaps forward happen, and it is a major reason why we have chosen to support this important initiative.”
In addition to his service on the BC Board of Trustees, where he is a member of the Academic Affairs Committee, Schiller serves on the Board of Directors at Illumina, a DNA-sequencing firm in San Diego. Kim Schiller is currently the co-chair of Salem State’s first comprehensive capital campaign.
Residents of Half Moon Bay, Calif., the Schillers have two sons, Erik and Mark, who is a first-year doctoral student in physics at Boston College.
“The liberal arts education I received at Boston College gave me the confidence that I could learn anything, which has helped me throughout my life,” said Phil Schiller, who graduated from Boston College with a bachelor of science degree in biology, “Kim and I hope this Institute for Integrated Science and Society will provide similar opportunities to future generations of BC students who are eager to take on the challenges facing the world.”