BOSTON — Mayor Thomas Menino will help launch a new urban affairs institute at Boston University after leaving office.
The mayor joined Boston University President Robert Brown Wednesday morning for the formal announcement.
The Initiative on Cities, where Menino will serve as co-director, plans to convene urban leaders and academics to share ideas on some of the biggest challenges facing cities in the United States and around the world.
Menino said the project will give him a chance to pursue his passion even after he leaves office.
“I love this city and cities all over America,” he said. “I love how they bring people together, how they gather ideas. I love how when cities have problems, they solve them. Cities make things work.”
Menino, who has a five-year contract with the school, will run the Initiative on Cities with Graham Wilson, chairman of Boston University’s political science department.
The project, affiliated with the university’s Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future, will sponsor symposia, convene meetings on urban public policy and hold an annual meeting.
Menino will not teach any classes, but he will appear as a guest lecturer from time to time. And he emphasized Wednesday that he wants to be accessible to students.
Menino and Brown said the center will aim to pair the academic heft of the university with the practical experience of a man known as the “Urban Mechanic.”
“You know my career,” Menino said. “I’m not an Ivory Tower type guy, I’m a hands-on type guy.”
Menino will finish his mayoral term Jan. 6, 2014, and he’s slated to start at Boston University Feb. 1 — though he said Wednesday that he’ll show up on campus earlier.
He will join a long line of former mayors who have landed in academia. Nearly 30 years ago, Boston Mayor Kevin White wound up at Boston University with a car, a driver and rumors of a rich salary.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office investigated White, at one point, amid suspicions that the job was payback for a $4.5 million donation he steered toward Boston University. He was never charged.
Menino will have no car or driver. And Brown said his salary will hover around the average professor’s salary of $157,000.
Menino spokeswoman Dot Joyce said the mayor has not been involved in any City Hall decisions affecting Boston University since April, when he began considering the job. And the mayor has brushed off any questions about a conflict of interest.
The university, which owns WBUR, has several matters pending before the city, including a proposed life sciences building on the school’s main campus and plans for a cancer center expansion in the South End.
The Boston University job isn’t the only one Menino explored. Last month, the mayor said he had turned down work at Harvard University.
When reporters asked Wednesday why he passed on the Ivy league institution, he had a quick reply: “well, because I didn’t have a passport to get to Cambridge first.”
Menino arrived at the announcement, in a glassy student services center outside Kenmore Square, leaning on his cane.
There was a hint of wistfulness in his delivery. But he was light-hearted for much of the announcement and said he was looking forward to his new post.
Menino said he won’t be doing any fundraising for the university. But Brown, the president, suggested he may help raise money for Initiative on Cities symposia and other events often underwritten by foundations and other outside sources.
Brown said a focus on governance and management would be a central focus. Menino highlighted education and the environment, pledging to plug into departments across the university.
He also said he’d be calling on fellow mayors to participate from time to time. Among them: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who’s finishing up his own high-profile tenure just five days before Menino.