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Shea Center Dedication Spotlights Entrepreneurship, Innovation

Shea Center for Entrepreneurship in Robsham Theater.
Phil Schiller ’82, senior vice president of worldwide marketing for Apple Inc., was on hand for last week’s dedication of the Shea Center for Entrepreneurship in Robsham Theater. Schiller gave a keynote address and took part in a panel discussion with Spark Capital cofounder Bijan Sabet ’91 and Wayfair CEO and co-chairman Niraj Shah. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

By Sean Hennessey | Chronicle Staff

Published: Nov. 12, 2015

Lauded as a resource for Boston College’s growing entrepreneurial culture, the Edmund H. Shea, Jr. Center for Entrepreneurship was formally dedicated Nov. 5 before a packed audience at Robsham Theater.

The center, named for the late California entrepreneur and venture capitalist Edmund H. Shea Jr., supports the growing start-up culture at BC by fostering collaborations between students, faculty and private sector experts that support ideas for new businesses and organizations. Created through a generous financial gift to the University’s Light the World campaign from Shea’s wife, Mary, and their six surviving children, the center opened its offices in Cushing Hall this fall (student space will be available in the spring) and operates within the Carroll School of Management.

Phil Schiller ’82 (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

Last week’s dedication ceremony featured talks from University leaders and an alumnus working for one of the most entrepreneurial companies in the world, Phil Schiller ’82, senior vice president of worldwide marketing for Apple Inc.  

“The Shea Center for Entrepreneurship at Boston College is an amazing opportunity for students and faculty to do some things that have never been done before,” said Schiller in his keynote address. “It is the best time in history to be an entrepreneur and clearly today is the perfect time to open up a center of entrepreneurship because the opportunities are boundless.”

Shea Center Executive Director Jere Doyle said the session’s mission is “to build and expand on the ecosystem of the entrepreneurship activities that have been going on at BC for the last decade – venture competitions, guest speakers, conferences. We want to make this university-wide and get everybody involved in some way or another.”

Powers Family Dean of the Carroll School of Management Andy Boynton called the Shea Center a “game-changing moment” for Boston College. “The center will touch all of our students throughout BC with the attitude, the spirit, and the skills of entrepreneurship.”

Provost and Dean of Faculties David Quigley said BC, as one of the world’s great Jesuit universities, is an appropriate setting for the Shea Center and its mission.

“It’s the Shea family’s gift to us to remind us of the entrepreneurial spirit that has characterized the Society of Jesus itself: Ignatius back in the early 16th century trying to figure out how to start up these various initiatives – schools, hospitals, almshouses; Francis Xavier and others traveling to other parts of the globe;  more contemporary Jesuits who have carried that spirit into a whole range of settings with a certain genius for developing organizations and meeting the needs of constituencies.”

Schiller, who described former Apple chief Steve Jobs as one of the greatest entrepreneurs who ever lived, ticked off some of the company’s innovations: the Mac, iPod, iPad, iTunes, iPhone, and Apple’s retail stores. He also cited the company’s app store, which in addition to providing downloads for some 100 billion applications has created 627,000 new jobs and paid more than $33 billion to developers.

“That’s what we think about when we talk about entrepreneurial activities, the ability to change the world, change markets, change the way things are done with a unique, brilliant, creative idea and that’s open to everybody,” said Schiller.

Schiller also took part in a panel discussion, “Innovation Meets Entrepreneurship,” along with Bijan Sabet ’91, co-founder of Spark Capital, an early investor in Twitter and Tumblr, among other companies; and Niraj Shah, co-chairman, CEO and co-founder of Wayfair, the largest retailer of online home furnishings with sales of $1.3 billion last year. Fittingly, one of the main topics was the role universities play in entrepreneurship.

“By and large most of these businesses get started where the entrepreneur really gets what they need out of the university,” said Sabet. “It’s a place to really explore your passions, collaborate with others. We see that time and time again – cofounders coming together, meeting in undergrad or graduate school, where they have a chance to work together, experiment together, try new things.”

Sabet reminded the audience, particularly the students, that learning comes with doing. “Life is about taking risks and trying new things. You’re going to make mistakes along the way and I think those are the best learning opportunities.”
For more, visit the Shea Center for Entrepreneurship here.