As an entrepreneur and executive, Jack Shields has made a number of investments over the years. This one, Shields promises, will end up being the best he’s ever made.
Shields is talking about the $5 million gift that he is making to his alma mater, Boston College High School in Dorchester, to establish the Shields Innovation Center at the school. It will be the second-largest individual donation in the school’s history, after a $12 million gift that the late Pat Cadigan made eight years ago to the school, which serves about 1,400 seventh- to twelfth-grade boys from Boston and dozens of nearby communities.
The school’s announcement of the gift comes about a year after Shields sold significant stakes in Stoughton-based Shields Health Solutions — a pharmacy services provider for hospitals that Shields founded and leads as its chairman — to Walgreens and a private equity firm for nearly $900 million. The Shields family’s imaging center business is run as a separate company called Shields Health Care Group.
The new Shields center will help connect BC High students to companies and executives in Boston’s innovation ecosystem. It also aims to bring together innovators in BC High’s considerable alumni base, and inform curriculum development at the school. There will be an unspecified physical space devoted to the center, and a director has been hired to oversee it.
“Teaching innovation is critical, and the earlier the better, especially ... in the city of Boston,” Shields said. “It’s my goal at BC High that the center will create a curriculum around entrepreneurship so students get exposure to it.”
Grace Cotter Regan, the school’s president, has been friends with Shields since they were in high school, growing up south of Boston. Shields has been talking with Regan for the past year or so about the best way he could give back to the school that gave him so much.
“When I showed up at their doorstep, I was a directionless kid,” said Shields, who graduated from the school in 1979. “BC High changed my life.”
Regan said the discussions with Shields helped reveal some gaps in the curriculum. She said she hopes the new Shields Innovation Center can help fill them. She said the school has already begun talking with local universities that have entrepreneurship programs about connecting them with the new center.
The Shields Innovation Center will be just the latest center of excellence established at the school. Regan said the Shields center’s work will interact with the others, which include ones that focus on leadership and on global education.
“We’ve talked a lot about how we leverage this gift to give students the experience they deserve,” Regan said. “I see this as a three- to five-year rollout of what we want to do.”