Former BU Administrator Remembers The Silber Public Didn’t See

BOSTON — John Silber, who for decades was synonymous with Boston University, died Thursday at age 86.

He had been undergoing treatment for kidney failure, and in recent days he’d invited many friends to his bedside to say goodbye.

One of them was Joe Mercurio, a longtime BU administrator who had worked with him since shortly after Silber became president of the school in 1971.

Silber was a fiery, controversial man. But when we spoke with Mercurio Thursday, he talked of a John Silber the public didn’t see: someone who gave his staff room to grow, believed in second chances, and reached into his pocket to help people who were struggling financially.

But Mercurio said Silber’s ultimate legacy in Boston was how he transformed BU physically and reputationally.

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  • isobel

    I do hope the WBUR will treat us to a look at President/Chancellor Silber from other points of view as well, for instance those of the faculty he terrorized, infantilized and insulted, finally and joyfully breathing free under a new president, or some of the major figures in American letters who left BU to escape the prison he made of it for most.  Or perhaps the doctoral student and teacher whose feminist course he cancelled when he caught wind–always a detail man–of its syllabus?  Or the many alumni (including me) who would not contribute to BU until he was gone.   It does not do to celebrate tyranny too monolithically, too flamboyantly.  Those are after all attributes themselves of tyranny.

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