Berklee Today

Alumni, Come on Down!

  Ernie and the Automatics, from the left: Tim Archibald '79, Sib Hashian, Ernie Boch, Jr. '82, and Barry Goudreau.
  Photos by Rebecca Gauchman

In an effort to boost the momentum of Berklee's fundraising initiatives through alumni participation, Ernie Boch, Jr., has issued a challenge to fellow alumni. Boch has pledged to donate $65,000 if 1,300 alumni make a gift of any size to the college. As an alumnus-turned-trustee, Boch understands the need for funds for student scholarships as well as new facilities to fulfill the college's vision statement. Increased alumni giving will also encourage foundations and other major donors to give to the college.

Boch is the CEO of Boch Enterprises headquartered in Norwood, Massachusetts. An avid guitarist and businessman, Boch earned his degree in professional music from Berklee in 1982, and last year he joined the Berklee College of Music Board of Trustees. A conversation between Boch and President Roger Brown sparked the idea for a matching challenge to inspire alumni to give back to their alma mater. "I think Berklee is an amazing place, and Roger will take it to places it's never been," says Boch.

And so Boch has reconnected with Berklee through his work as a trustee. He says his close friend and fellow trustee Mike Dreese urged him to consider joining the board. "I get asked to join so many boards," Boch says, "but I have to turn them all down because of my schedule. I don't feel I could give the time they would deserve, so I told Mike I wasn't going to do it. He asked me to just come by and meet Roger. If after meeting with him I still felt I didn't want to join the board, [he said] that would be fine. Within five minutes of meeting Roger, though, I was begging to be on the board. He has the vision to take the school to great heights."

Boch has been in the automobile business for 33 years. As a teenager, he learned the ropes as a lot boy and then progressed in the family organization from used-car salesman to general manager to vice president overseeing all Boch retail operations. After the passing of his father in July 2003, Boch took the reins of Boch Enterprises, a billion-dollar business with interests from automobiles to real estate.

Despite the demands of his career as president of Boch Enterprises, Boch remains an active musician. He heads a blues band called Ernie and the Automatics with guitarist Barry Goudreau and drummer Sib Hashian, former members of the legendary rock group Boston. Bassist Tim Archibald '79 rounds out the band's personnel.

The group rehearses regularly but does only five or six big gigs a year. "I can't be dragging these guys around to clubs," Boch says. "We opened up for Los Lobos last summer and will open for B.B. King at the Opera House in March 2007. The plan is to do blues festivals across the country."

Boch is mindful of the financial sacrifices many of our alumni musicians make to pursue their careers. Hence, some alumni gifts will of necessity, be small. The important thing is to be part of the effort. Putting his financial muscle behind the campaign to encourage alumni participation as Berklee strives to achieve its vision for 2015, Boch paraphrases the familiar slogan used in his company's television commercials for years. To fellow alumni he says, "'Come on down,' and give some money!"

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