What began as parents supporting the University their daughters came to call home has blossomed into a dynamic philanthropic relationship, reflecting the family’s priorities and passions.
“The great thing is, besides not getting invited to Anna (second from the left) and Julia’s (first from the right) off-campus parties, we feel just as connected to the University now as we did when they were at the Heights.”—Fred Seigel
To this day, Donna Seigel, P’13, ’19 remembers the minutiae of the moment—where they stood in the high school hallway, the fluorescent lighting, the banners for graduating seniors—when her daughter’s friend told them the news. “He had gotten into his dream school, they’d even offered him some financial aid. He just didn’t have the money to make it work,” she recalls.
“He was a great student, a good athlete, a hard worker, a good young person who deserved to go to the school of his dreams,” adds Donna’s husband, Fred. “But the gating issue for him came down to financial resources.”
“It immediately put things in perspective, since we were so excited about [our daughter] Julia being admitted to Boston College,” Donna says. “Of course, we knew that this kind of thing happened, but seeing the impact on a personal level really broke my heart.”
More than a decade removed from that conversation, that memory still guides the Seigels like a compass. No, it didn’t signal the start of their support for financial aid—they were already staunch advocates for educational equity, social justice, and myriad other causes—but it remains a clarifying moment in their philanthropic journey.
Since then, both their daughters, Julia ’13 and Anna ’19, have graduated from Boston College, forming lifelong friendships and receiving transformational educations at the Heights, and the elder Seigels have become leading supporters of financial aid and a number of groundbreaking programs at BC—not that you could tell by talking to them.
For Fred and Donna, it’s all about the impact they can have, working in tandem with the University, to make sure the possibility of a BC education isn’t withheld from anyone just because they can’t afford it.
Their inclination to provide access to education is born of personal experience. Coming from families without much in the way of resources—Fred was the first in his family to attend college, and Donna was one of seven children—they relied on student loans to pay their relatively inexpensive tuition costs. Now, with the costs of higher education increasingly difficult for working families to afford, the Seigel’s choice to bolster financial aid—through Pops on the Heights, endowed scholarship funds, the President’s Discretionary Fund, and more—became that much simpler. “Scholarships are forever,” Fred says. “So the fact that BC is need-blind was very significant to us,” says Fred. “There aren’t many need-blind universities; it’s a powerful statement about how BC thinks about opportunity for young people.
“And the more we got to know BC, especially the leadership, we really got a sense that this was an institution we wanted to support. And after spending some time with Fr. Leahy, everything crystallized—the mission became really clear to us.”
Growing up, philanthropy and the necessity of education were practically in the air Julia and Anna breathed. “We grew up talking about politics and social need,” Julia recalls. “Ingrained in us from a young age was this strong belief in filling those gaps by giving where we can.” Anna adds, “our parents stressed access to education as a way to impact generations of people.”
During Julia’s first semester at BC, she took The Courage to Know with professor Brian Braman, which, along with club water polo, gave her a real sense of belonging. She’s only a bit jealous of current Eagles who get to enjoy the new swimming facilities in the Margot Connell Recreation Center, but remains deeply grateful for the relationships formed in the classroom and poolside in the (poorly ventilated) Plex. “Finding that sense of community was so wonderful,” she says.
DRIVING IMPACT, ONE PRIORITY AT A TIME.
The Seigels choose to bolster financial aid through:
POPS ON THE HEIGHTS
ENDOWED SCHOLARSHIP FUNDS
PRESIDENT’S DISCRETIONARY FUND
BC FUND SCHOLARS
The Seigels support of the School of Social Work’s mission through:
POPS ON THE HEIGHTS
SEIGEL GRADUATE FELLOWSHIP FUND
SEIGEL ENDOWED GLOBAL PRACTICE FUND
CENTER FOR SOCIAL INNOVATION
When Anna told Donna and Fred that she was following Julia to the Heights, they were ecstatic. “We had seen the impact BC had on Julia for the four years she spent there, and we were so excited for Anna to receive all those benefits—from the lifelong friendships to the academic and professional development under outstanding faculty,” Fred remembers.
Anna enrolled with a declared political science major and minored in women and gender studies, working under Sharlene Hesse-Biber, director of the Women and Gender Studies program. The experience proved invaluable. “My professors were amazing,” she says, “taking me under their wing as a TA and research assistant, then helping me get into grad school.” Also central to Anna’s BC experience were her involvement with Young Democrats, as well as the Women’s Center, which she cites as “the highlight of so many students’ time at BC.”
Everything [Julia and Anna] were looking for, they found at BC.”
—DONNA SEIGEL, P’13, ’19
“Everything [Julia and Anna] were looking for, they found at BC,” Donna says. Moreover, Julia and Anna credit the University for preparing them exceptionally well for their respective graduate studies. Seeing how much their daughters relished their time at BC, the Seigels established several funds to enable more deserving students to enroll at the University.
As the Seigel’s relationship with BC has deepened over the years, they’ve expanded their philanthropy beyond just financial aid, supporting a number of causes that mirror their passions.
When Donna and Fred first met Alberto Godenzi, the late dean of the Boston College School of Social Work (SSW), they were deeply impressed. “They’ve got this top-10 program, and the graduate students go on to do all this remarkable work, which they’re clearly not in for wealth creation,” Fred says. “We left that evening really enthralled with [Dean Godenzi] and the school, and reached out afterward to see where we could help. The same impression Dean Godenzi made on us, we feel as strongly about Dean [Gautam] Yadama; he’s an extraordinary leader.”
Julia and Anna echo their parents’ enthusiasm. “Hearing how intentional they are about things like hiring diverse faculty and expanding opportunities for marginalized students, or how nimbly they allocated resources for struggling students throughout the pandemic was really invigorating,” Anna says.
There aren’t many need-blind universities; it’s a powerful statement about how BC thinks about opportunity for
—FRED SEIGEL, P’13, ’19
Identifying with the School of Social Work’s mission to improve the lives of the most vulnerable and marginalized, Donna and Fred established the Seigel Faculty Research Fund, Seigel Graduate Fellowship Fund, and Seigel Endowed Global Practice Fund. Additionally, they’ve thrown considerable support behind the SSW’s Center for Social Innovation, which houses the Black Leadership Initiative and the Latinx Leadership Initiative, and advances social interventions combating poverty, racial inequities, climate change, and more. The School’s focus on matters of diversity and inclusion, in particular, became a natural fit with the family’s collective commitment to advancing social justice.
“What makes helping BC easy is the leadership,” insists Fred. “When you have exceptional leaders who have a vision and execute with passion, you want to build it with them. What’s always energized us about BC are leaders like Fr. Leahy, Jim Husson, Dean Yadama—good, caring people who continue to move the school forward. There’s always something new at BC. We just want to be part of it.”