Molly Levitt '09
Director at Remarkable US, a disability tech accelerator.
Boston College Launches the Soaring Higher Capital Campaign
The $3 billion campaign, the largest in University history, will raise funds for crucial academic, financial-aid, and student-life initiatives.
On September 28, Boston College launched Soaring Higher, a $3 billion campaign to raise money for the University’s strategic priorities during the coming decade. Boston College Magazine sat down with Senior Vice President for University Advancement Andrew Davidson to learn more about the most ambitious campaign in University history.
The $3 billion Soaring Higher campaign is not only the largest in BC history, but it doubles the goal of the previous campaign.
It is an ambitious goal, no doubt. There are not a lot of colleges or universities in the world that can have a campaign of this size. So, this is elite company that we are in, and we are thrilled to be here.
What are the priorities for Soaring Higher?
The campaign’s priorities are core to the needs of the University. First, Soaring Higher will focus on academic needs, including hiring additional faculty, endowing faculty chairs and fellowships, and investing in our academic programs across all nine of our schools and colleges. Second, it will focus on increasing resources for financial aid. Our goal is to raise $1 billion for financial aid, to meet the growing needs of our students. And the third area of focus will be in support of student-life programs, such as retreats, service immersion opportunities, and foreign study; campus facilities, including undergraduate housing and space for student formation and wellness; and investments in our athletic programs.
Why are endowed professorships and fellowships so important to attracting and retaining great faculty?
For many faculty, holding an endowed chair represents the pinnacle of their academic career and signifies that they are at the highest level within their field. Expanding endowed professorships is critical to our ability to attract and retain the very best faculty. We are in competition with the nation’s top colleges and universities, and Boston College needs to invest to stay competitive.
Why is $1 billion in financial aid so essential for Boston College?
Like at other universities, the number of students who depend on financial aid is steadily increasing at BC. Boston College is one of only twenty-one universities in the country that is need-blind in undergraduate admissions and meets the full demonstrated need of all accepted students. Among these twenty-one schools, however, BC has one of the smallest endowments, which results in fewer dollars available to allot to our students compared with those at wealthier schools. We will need a significant increase in gifts in support of financial aid to continue this important commitment. Boston College’s financial-aid allocation has nearly doubled in the past decade to $166 million in need-based undergraduate financial aid this academic year, providing access for lots of students who otherwise would not be able to afford a BC education. We need to continue meeting this financial need, especially for middle-income families.
Can you explain the importance of supporting the student experience at Boston College?
The education that we provide at Boston College is distinctive within higher education, especially when you look at the elite schools against which we compete for students. During the four years our undergraduate students are here, formation is infused throughout every aspect of their educational experience, whether in the classroom, in student housing, in Campus Ministry activities, or on our athletic fields. Supporting student life and formative education is a key part of what we are looking to do in this campaign.
In addition to these three key priorities, what other University initiatives will Soaring Higher address?
One important initiative is the Pine Manor Institute, which was established through a $100 million investment from BC and its benefactors to enhance educational access and success for underrepresented students. Among the Pine Manor Institute’s many important initiatives are the Academy—which brings underserved kids in grades 8 through 12 to study at BC each summer, helping to prepare them for college—and Messina College, a residential, two-year associate degree–granting division of Boston College that will open in the summer of 2024. Messina College will provide students with the skills that they need to either go into the workforce or transition into an undergraduate degree program—whether at BC or other schools. And it is in keeping with BC’s mission of opening the door to education for people who might otherwise be excluded. That was core to our mission in 1863, and it is core today.
When you meet with BC benefactors, what do they identify as their greatest desires for the University?
They are intent on Boston College continuing its momentum and trajectory. That is why Soaring Higher is such an appropriate name for this campaign. There is a deep desire within our community that BC not let up, that we continue to push forward, that we continue to invest in making BC the world’s best Jesuit, Catholic university.
Meet the New SVP
Andrew Davidson was named BC’s senior vice president for university advancement in March. Davidson previously worked in leadership positions in fundraising at both Harvard University and Dartmouth College. A collegiate oarsman at Rutgers, he rows competitively at the masters level.
“What drew me to Boston College? It was the mission. Jesuit education is an important part of who I am and an important part of my experience in life. My father-in-law, Francis P. O’Connor, was taught by the Jesuits at Boston College High School, the College of the Holy Cross, and BC Law School. His example was foundational for my family. My son Charlie is named after Charlie Dunn, SJ, who was a beloved Jesuit at Holy Cross, where my wife worked for close to twenty-five years. He was an important part of our lives, and we loved him dearly. Furthermore, when I met my birth family in my thirties, I learned that my sisters had both graduated from Santa Clara University, and I have come to know aunts and uncles who went there as well. I also have an uncle who became a Jesuit. So, the Jesuit roots and values are important to my family. The opportunity to work at a place where the mission is tied so closely with who I am as a person was something that really inspired me. I feel very blessed to be here and honored to have this opportunity to support BC.”
You came to Boston College from Dartmouth, which had just surpassed its own $3 billion campaign goal. Before that, you helped Harvard reach its $6.5 billion goal. What was the key to their success, and how, in your view, can BC replicate it?
Boston College has a lot of the same elements that Dartmouth and Harvard have. We have excellent students and faculty, a beautiful campus, and a passionate and committed alumni base. We also have parents who are integral to our mission and success. Pulling those communities together will help us accomplish what we are hoping for in this campaign.
What is behind your belief that BC’s Jesuit, Catholic mission has never been needed more in higher education?
There are a lot of wonderful universities out there, and they provide a great service to our country and to the world. However, there is something distinctive about a Boston College education that other colleges and universities don’t have, and in fact might shy away from. BC’s commitment to providing a liberal arts education that integrates the intellectual, social, spiritual, and affective dimensions of a student’s life is not widely shared across higher education. BC graduates go out into the world looking to use their talents in the service of others. That component of their experience is going to have a lasting impact on their lives and the lives of others.
How can BC graduates and parents from different parts of the country and the world participate in Soaring Higher?
We just had an amazing campaign kickoff event on the Heights on September 28. This year, we will host alumni events in New York, California, and Chicago. We are also going to have smaller events in twenty other cities around the country in the coming year. We will have events in international locations as well. This will be a global campaign.
What do you say to those alumni and parents who say, “I can’t make a big donation, so my support really doesn’t matter?”
Every gift counts. Boston College was founded on philanthropy. Our institutional growth has been funded through the generosity and sacrifice of our benefactors, regardless of how much they are able to contribute. At every point in our history, when we have needed alumni to step up, they have. And it has made Boston College what it is today. This is a chance for this generation to step forward and provide the support that they have received from prior generations at any level they can. In 2022, 87 percent of the 55,000 cash donations we received were less than $1,000. There is colossal power in small gifts.
How was the campaign name Soaring Higher chosen?
Boston College is a university that is clearly in an upward trajectory, and we believe that Soaring Higher evokes upward momentum without bounds. It also marries well with our mascot, an eagle, soaring higher into the sky.
What do you say to those alumni from an earlier era who find a $3 billion campaign beyond anything they could have ever expected from their alma mater?
It’s daunting, but we have strong and experienced leadership in Fr. Leahy and his team, and the benefactors, alumni, leadership, University Advancement staff, and campaign priorities needed to succeed. I am honored and very excited for what is to come, and confident in our ability to meet this campaign goal on behalf of Boston College.
RAISED TO DATE
$1.13 billion (38%)
AREAS OF FOCUS
Student Support: providing opportunity through financial aid and scholarships
Academics: investing in world-class faculty and research
Student Life: enhancing experiences at the Heights through formative education, facilities, and athletics
GOAL FOR ALUMNI PARTICIPATION
To have 60 percent of undergraduate alumni give at least once during the course of the campaign
Brigid Doherty ’96, Regent, and René Jones ’86, P’25, Trustee
Cyndy and John F. Fish, Trustee
Jonathan A. and Patti L. Kraft P’24, Trustee
Kim Gassett-Schiller and Phillip Schiller ’82, Trustee
Raymond Skowyra, Jr. and Marianne D. Short NC’73, JD’76, P’05, Trustee