Each year, Convocation marks the official beginning of the academic year, which in 2018 will mark Emmanuel's 99th opening. Cummings new autobiography, Starting Small and Making it Big: An Entrepreneur's Journey to Billion-Dollar Philanthropist, is required reading for Emmanuel's incoming first-year students.
Cummings founded the commercial real-estate firm Cummings Properties in 1970, which started as one small building and has grown to an 11-million-square-foot portfolio of more than 100 modern buildings. Cummings, along with his wife Joyce, have generously contributed much of their wealth to numerous causes through the Cummings Foundation, which they established in 1986. To-date, the foundation has dispersed more than $200 million in grants to Greater Boston nonprofits alone.
Born in Medford, Massachusetts during the Great Depression, Cummings grew up poor but demonstrated an early knack for entrepreneurship, selling bottles of soda at a neighborhood construction site at age six. Equipped with lessons in hard work, kindness and fiscal responsibility from his parents, he became a serial entrepreneur "in earnest." After earning a degree in economics from Tufts University, Cummings purchased his first real business, a 100-year-old manufacturer of fruit-juice-beverage bases, for $4,000 in 1964, which he later sold for millions of dollars.
Cummings' autobiography spans the seven decades of his journey in business and philanthropy, sharing not only the pioneering thinking that produced a multibillion-dollar enterprise, but highlighting his singular dedication to the communities and institutions that were so vital to his success. The book will be integrated into a number of first-year activities and discussions related to Emmanuel's new "Surviving Freshman Year Team Challenge."
Bill and Joyce Cummings were the first Massachusetts couple to join the Giving Pledge, an international philanthropic organization founded by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet. Ernst & Young, the Irish International Immigrant Center, the Archdiocese of Boston, and the NAIOP (the association for the commercial real estate development industry), have honored them with various community accolades. They have each received several honorary doctoral degrees and have three times served as college commencement speakers. The Boston Globe honored the couple as runners-up for Greater Bostonians of the Year in 2012 and the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce named them to the Academy of Distinguished Bostonians in 2017. In 2014, Boston Business Journal named Cummings the Real Estate Visionary of the Year.