John R. Silber

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John Robert Silber (August 15, 1926 — September 27, 2012) was a University President and an unsuccessful candidate for Governor of Massachusetts.

Silber was born in San Antonio, Texas. He was born with a right arm that ended in a stub at the point when an elbow is usually located.

Silber earned a bachelor's degree in 1947 from Trinity University and a Ph.D. in 1956 from Yale University. He became a professor at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) and he specialized in the 18th century philosopher Immanuel Kant.

In 1967, Silber became UT's Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Three years later in 1970, in a widely publicized firing, UT Regents Chairman Frank Craig Erwin, Jr. removed Silber at Dean.[1] This was in the context of a number of controversial personnel decisions by the Regents during that decade.

Silber was President of Boston University from 1971 to 1996 and continued as Chancellor until 2003. He was also interim President in 2002-2003. During an era of left-wing student protests throughout the nation, Silber was the most vocal conservative voice on university campuses. Terry W. Hartie, senior vice president of the American Council on Education, said of Silber, "one of the best-known and most visible college presidents of the last 50 years."[2] During the Viet Nam War, Boston University students held protests on campus against military recruiting, and Silber drew national attention for calling in the police to break up the demonstrations. In 2002, Silber ordered that a B.U.-affiliated high school academy disband its gay-straight alliance student club.[3] Author Tom Wolfe called Silber, "the last candid man."[3]

Although Silber was an outspoken conservative, he managed to win the Democratic primary for Governor of Massachusetts in 1990. He lost the general election to the Republican candidate, William Weld.

Silber wrote two books. The first, Straight Shooting, is a social, political, and moral commentary on issues in that impact modern American life. The second, Architecture of the Absurd is a criticism of contemporary architects. He also published many articles.


  1. Erwin, Frank Craig, Jr. | The Handbook of Texas Online| Texas State Historical Association (TSHA)
  2. Anderson, Nick. "Outspoken President of Boston U.", Washington Post, September 28, 2012, p. B8. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Goldstein, Richard. "When it comes to bigotry, Boston University chancellor John Silber is almost as vicious as a shock jock.", Village Voice, October 15, 2002. Retrieved on September 28, 2012.