Launched in September 2023, Soaring Higher: the Campaign for Boston College will raise $3 billion, enhancing the University’s commitment to scholarships and financial aid, academics, and student life. Meet the tireless co-chairs leading alumni, parents, and friends into the largest fundraising campaign in BC’s history.
During Phil Schiller’s high school years, his parents presented him with an opportunity—he could attend the college of his choice, but with one condition: he had to pay for it on his own. Taking inspiration from his older sister, he opted to be a commuter student at Boston College. BC lessened his financial burden with a scholarship, and Schiller also received a student loan. His summer job earnings bridged the remaining gap. “With those three sources combined, I managed to cover my tuition of $7,500,” Schiller explains. “It wasn’t easy, but back then I could do it on my own. That’s simply not possible now.”
Today, the Class of 1982 grad now finds himself in a very different position—one that will help increase scholarships and financial aid for students while supporting BC’s upward trajectory. He and his wife, Kim Gassett-Schiller, are among five couples steering Soaring Higher: the Campaign for Boston College. Together, they are at the forefront of the effort to drive the BC community to invest in students and the University’s future.
Beacon spoke with the campaign co-chairs to learn more about this unprecedented endeavor.
How has your relationship with Boston College evolved over the years? How did your philanthropy to BC come to play a role in your life?
John Fish: Since 2006, I’ve poured my heart and soul into Boston College, demonstrating my commitment to Eagles and my belief in the future of this institution. My introduction to BC was nothing short of an epiphany. It changed my life, my marriage, and how I raised my children. My involvement with BC brought back into view the things that are really important in life—first and foremost, being men and women for others. I am humbled and truly honored to be a part of the University and serve as the first non-alum chair of the Board of Trustees.
Cyndy Fish: Over the past 10 years, each of our three daughters earned graduate degrees from Boston College. It’s been wonderful to experience the University through their eyes and perspectives, as well.
Patti Kraft: We’ve been on an accelerated track in terms of our involvement with BC. What has resonated with us is the fact that the mission is so front and center in every aspect of the University. It’s something that we encountered very early on and very genuinely. It has influenced my involvement in everything here these past few years.
Brigid Doherty: Experiencing Boston College as a parent provided a new appreciation of how special the University truly is. Sharing in the campus experience is so much fun. It’s an opportunity like no other.
Jonathan Kraft: I grew up less than a mile from Boston College and drove by it every day on my way to school. Over the years, I saw the physical evolution of campus—the organic growth that was taking place. When our children were young, we started bringing them to BC football games. After all this time watching the University grow from afar, it’s a privilege to be on the inside.
Kim Gassett-Schiller: Our first philanthropic commitment to BC was to support the hockey team. But when we discovered the numerous opportunities that aligned with our interests, our connection with BC grew. Over the years, our philanthropy has expanded to support students, faculty, and staff. Our son is currently a graduate student at BC, studying physics. His connection to the University is so deep that he chose to have his wedding reception at BC’s Connors Center in Dover. Today I’m at a point where sometimes I feel like I am an Eagle!
What excites you about serving as a co-chair for Soaring Higher?
PK: We were deeply honored to have been asked to be chairs. Honestly, we were a bit hesitant at first to accept such a role as non-alums. Our experience as parents was what tied us to the school and, as a board member, I had insight into BC and the deep commitment to the University. Boston College has already had so much impact in the world, by virtue of its Jesuit mission. It is wonderful to be a part of BC and to support it in any way we can.
JK: We’re excited to tell BC’s story and explain how further investment in the institution by those who care about it can make it an even more impactful place, both for the greater Boston community and the world at large.
KGS: I am honored to be part of a team that’s doing important work for the University. I’m always impressed with the students we meet; it’s amazing to talk to them about the work they’re doing and to hear how passionate they are about what they’re learning at BC. They can’t wait to get into the real world and make an impact. This campaign will open new doors for students and support new opportunities for faculty.
Marianne Short: I have been associated with Boston College for over 50 years—from my undergraduate days at Newton College through my Law School days, and I’ve served on the Board of Trustees since the mid-1980s. Ray and I are proud of Boston College’s accomplishments to date, and we are excited for its future.
Phil Schiller: The longer I’m involved with BC, the more impressed I become with the value of this education and the more I want to help others have this experience too. That’s why I wanted to be a part of this campaign. And that’s why I hope to further advance BC and create more opportunities for more students.
What are BC’s strengths, challenges, and opportunities in the years ahead?
PS: The liberal arts education that I received at BC gave me the confidence that I could learn anything, which has helped me throughout my life. BC prepared me to be flexible, adaptable, and do well in anything that I was excited about.
JK: As a parent, it’s been wonderful to see our son experience BC in terms of academics, formation, and athletics. We also love hearing our son talk about Ignatian values of doing good and inspiring others to do good in the world as men and women for others. There’s a similar Jewish principle called tikkun olam—work to heal the world. It is the most important thing a person of the Jewish faith can do every day for humanity.
BD: Boston College’s differences are its strengths. Its history and commitment to the Jesuit mission, its support for an incredible faculty, and the commitment to meeting 100 percent of all financial aid need are some of the many reasons BC stands apart.
René Jones: Boston College’s success as an educational institution is incredible. But the University’s purpose is greater—focusing on the formation of individuals who make an impact on their communities and the world. It’s essential that we continue to provide BC with the resources to deliver on this purpose now and into the future.
How important is it for the BC community to participate in this campaign?
MS: Father Leahy has set an exciting tone for this campaign—one that inspires us to get going. But for this effort to be successful, we need everybody to participate. This is really a team effort across the BC community of alumni, parents, and friends.
PS: This campaign is about two things. One, it’s about resources for facilities, programs, students, faculty, and scholarships. Two, it’s about strengthening the BC community. If we can increase the number of people who are engaged and active with the University, BC will benefit beyond the funds raised.
RJ: Right, Phil. As co-chairs, our role is to access the diverse communities that exist within and around Boston College. Our diverse perspectives and backgrounds are powerful assets. We can all contribute to widening BC’s outreach in our own way. The more the merrier, right?
Reconnecting with BC has made a meaningful difference for me. For a long time, my impression of the University was based on my experience as a student. So much has changed since then. BC’s mission and purpose has endured, but the University has evolved to meet the current needs of students and the community. I think alums who have not engaged with BC in a long time would benefit from reengaging to witness the University’s lasting impact.
BD: I agree. This campaign provides an opportunity for people to reconnect with the BC community and give back. Soaring Higher is an opportunity for us to recognize our blessings and share them with other people—both now and in the future. It’s a really wonderful thing.
Why is now the right time to launch this campaign?
PS: There are so many great things going on at Boston College. The campaign provides an opportunity to talk about those things and engage a broader audience with the University. There’s never been a better time to discuss the achievements of each department and showcase the work the students are doing. BC is different today than it was five or 10 years ago, even more than most people realize.
JF: I believe in my heart that we’re at an inflection point at Boston College. Yet the stronger we become, the more competitive a field we’ll be in—for students, faculty, staff, and resources. One big lesson we’ve learned over the past few years is that it’s important for people to show up as their authentic selves, without seeking permission, and be cared for. Within the board, we talk about how important formation is and how important the principle of Eagles for others is in this ever-changing world we live in. What other institution in the country today is espousing those values and those virtues? This is why this campaign is so important. Boston College has the special sauce that this world is looking for. We have the environment that people want to be in and where people can thrive no matter who they are.