Boston University Faculty Members Remembered
Adelaide McGarrett (SAR’33, SED’47)
Age 95, Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences professor emerita of physical therapy, on February 27.
McGarrett, who taught at Sargent College for thirty years, was one of the first women to serve as chair of a university physical therapy department.
“She was a leader, a visionary, and a kind mentor who played a powerful role in the development of physical therapy,” says former student Ellie (Wilson) Pearson (SAR’56).
McGarrett oversaw undergraduates’ acceptance into the physical therapy program, a role that left an indelible impression upon hundreds of Sargent students.
“Early on I was intimidated and shook in my shoes,” Pearson recalls, “but as the years went by, I came to appreciate her many wonderful qualities.”
McGarrett began her career in Indianapolis, after receiving a bachelor’s degree from BU and a certificate in physical therapy from Harvard University. She was a therapist at a cerebral palsy clinic and director of the Indiana Society for Crippled Children.
In 1944, McGarrett became the director of the physical therapy education program at Sargent. She completed a master’s in education and was appointed a full professor in 1952. She retired in 1974 as department chair. —Katie Koch
Merrill L. Ebner
Age 76, College of Engineering professor emeritus, on March 27.
A key figure in the college’s transformation and an architect of the field of manufacturing engineering, Ebner retired from full-time faculty work at the end of 2006 after a forty-two-year career at BU.
“Merrill was an icon,” says College of Engineering Dean Kenneth R. Lutchen. “The Boston University College of Engineering would not be where it is today without his numerous and enduring contributions during a career that spanned five decades. Merrill was loved and respected by generations of students and colleagues. I personally will be forever grateful to him for his friendship and mentoring when I first arrived at BU as a junior faculty member twenty-four years ago. We are saddened by his loss, but comforted to know that students will benefit from Merrill’s legacy for many years to come.”
Ebner was among a small group of faculty hired in the early 1960s to help build the College of Engineering. When he was recruited in 1964, the college had only recently been renamed, having begun in 1950 as the College of Industrial Technology.
In his lab, Ebner was developing a new engineering discipline, focused on product development and design: manufacturing engineering. He was instrumental in defining the discipline as separate from industrial and mechanical engineering, and he led the successful effort to get the BU manufacturing engineering department accredited. He was its chair from 1969 to 1986. In 1989, BU awarded the first manufacturing engineering Ph.D. in the United States.
In the early 1970s, college enrollment ebbed, and the University looked to Ebner’s skills and engaging personality to turn things around as dean ad interim.
He succeeded. BU President Emeritus John Silber (Hon.’95) recalled in 2006 that “the personal attention offered by Professor Ebner and other colleagues created an atmosphere in the school that made it highly attractive to prospective students.”
Every undergraduate in the manufacturing engineering program took at least one course with Ebner, who never lost his enthusiasm for the subject matter or his ability to connect with students. Just months before his retirement, manufacturing engineering students voted him the department’s best teacher.
Roger Dorf (ENG’70), president and chief executive officer of Navini Networks, established the Merrill L. Ebner Fund at the College of Engineering in 2003 to benefit student-based programs that encourage creative design in manufacturing engineering. “When it came time to give back to the places that made me,” Dorf said, “he stood out in my memory. He changed the way I look at things.”
In 1996, Ebner took over the college’s Distance Learning Program, which then consisted largely of satellite-fed lectures delivered to students gathered in conference rooms. As he prepared to retire in 2006, he was fine-tuning software, now in use, that allows students real-time audio and video interaction with their professors and classmates via laptop.
Donations in Ebner’s memory may be made to the Boston University Merrill L. Ebner Fund, College of Engineering Alumni and Development Office, 44 Cummington St., Boston, MA 02215. —Michael G. Seele
Bernhard W. Anderson
Age 91, former School of Theology adjunct professor of Old Testament theology, on December 26, 2007.
Anderson, who taught at BU from 1984 to 1996, was one of the twentieth century’s foremost Old Testament scholars. He is best remembered for his textbook Understanding the Old Testament, first published in 1957 and since reprinted in many languages and several editions. The book set sales records worldwide, an achievement due not only to a renewed interest in the Old Testament among Christians, but also to Anderson’s accessible, down-to-earth style of writing.
“As an author, his effortless prose addresses readers personally and without scholarly pretension, a style that he also brought to lectures and sermons,” the Society of Biblical Literature wrote in a tribute to Anderson.
The son of an itinerant preacher, Anderson was born on the Missouri frontier. He received religion degrees from the College of the Pacific and the Pacific School of Religion and was ordained in the United Methodist Church in 1939. He went on to earn a doctorate in Old Testament studies from Yale Divinity School.
Anderson taught at several universities, including Colgate University, the University of North Carolina, and Colgate Rochester Divinity School. He was dean of the Theological School of Drew University in New Jersey from 1954 to 1968. In 1968, he settled at Princeton Theological Seminary, where he remained until his retirement in 1983. The next year, he joined the BU School of Theology as an adjunct professor. He continued to publish Bible study guides and to lead Bible study groups around the world.
He received the Society of Biblical Literature’s Julian Morgenstern Award for his efforts to spread biblical scholarship to a broad audience. —Katie Koch
John Michael Harrison
Age 91, College of Arts and Sciences professor emeritus of psychology, on November 30, 2007.
Harrison taught behavioral and physiological psychology at BU from 1948 to 1979. An eminent researcher throughout his career, he was demanding of his undergraduate and graduate students alike.
“He did not mitigate the complexity nor the difficulty nor the implications of the subjects he taught,” says Fabio Idrobo (GRS’85), a CAS laboratory manager and lecturer in psychology and Harrison’s former teaching fellow. “He never sugar-coated the material.”
Early in his career, Harrison pioneered research into the neuroanatomy of the auditory system. His studies of the auditory brainstem are preserved in the Harrison Slide Collection at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, D.C., which explores the history and practice of American and military medicine.
At BU, Harrison began to conduct experiments on the hearing and auditory systems of mammals. Using bats, cats, monkeys, apes, and dolphins, he studied the link between an animal’s behavior and the demands of its natural acoustic environment.
Later Harrison took up the passion of his late father, a renowned pipe organ builder. In 1996, he began publishing a series of journal articles on organ acoustics and how organ sounds are perceived psychologically.
“He had three careers,” Idrobo says, “but they were all linked by an interest in the auditory world.”
Harrison received many professional accolades, including an award in 2000 from the American Psychological Association for his contributions to behavioral research. —Katie Koch
Erwin F. Hirsch
Age 72, School of Medicine professor of surgery and chief of trauma surgery at Boston Medical Center, on May 23.
Hirsch, a much-respected and well-loved physician who was chief of trauma surgery at BMC for twenty-five years, was legendary for his efforts to provide the highest quality care to all patients, regardless of their finances or personal histories, and for his seemingly inexhaustible energy and goodwill.
“Dr. Hirsch was instrumental in the development of the Boston Medical Center level one trauma center, which is one of the best of its type in the world,” says Aram Chobanian (Hon.’06), president emeritus of Boston University and dean emeritus of the School of Medicine. “He not only was an outstanding surgeon, but he had the organizational skills to develop an intricate and coordinated system for care for the most complicated trauma patients. He also worked internationally to develop trauma centers in other countries. He trained innumerable medical students and house officers, and his legacy will live on through them.”
Peter Burke, BMC chief of critical care, a MED associate professor, and a colleague of Hirsch’s for ten years, says the center was fortunate to have had the enormous experience that Hirsch brought with him. “One of his strengths was that he was able to teach the rest of us how to deliver excellent trauma care,” Burke says. “So while he is gone now, his knowledge is not.”
Suresh Agarwal, a trauma surgeon at BMC and a MED assistant professor, told the Boston Globe that the opportunity to work with Hirsch was the reason he came to Boston Medical Center. “He was a father, a friend, a role model, and someone I aspire to be like,” Agarwal says. “He is a true giant in American trauma surgery.”
As many of his peers retired, Hirsch continued to accept as many overnight rotations as surgeons half his age and he encouraged his staff to engage in cutting-edge research on trauma interventions. He valued family and urged his medical students to never ignore a child’s birthday, according to the Globe.
Karen Antman, dean of the School of Medicine and provost of the Medical Campus, says that Hirsch was beloved by his residents and his students. “He is a legend,” she says. “He has been saving lives for decades. If you suffered a trauma in this region, you wanted to be air-lifted to him and treated in his department.”
Carla Paaske (PAL’35, SED’60)
Age 98, School of Management professor emerita, on April 17.
Paaske graduated first from the College of Practical Arts and Letters, founded in 1919 with the purpose of training girls “simultaneously for life’s journey [with courses in household management]” and for such vocational jobs as secretaries, high school business teachers, and, gradually, dieticians, lab technicians, commercial artists, and other “female” careers. Those were the practical arts; letters encompassed the humanities and the sciences.
Deportment was also part of the curriculum; Paaske taught students to study hard and to “behave with dignity, dress nicely, speak well,” Jean Glendon (PAL’47) recalled decades later. “We were scared to death of her, and we obeyed her.” In the warm, nurturing atmosphere of PAL, her firm motherliness, at first of women scarcely younger than she, became a hallmark. Over the years she held many positions, including that of PAL registrar, but she was at heart always teacher and counselor.
By the fifties PAL seemed passé, even offensive, and in 1955 the college closed. Sitting in for its first and only dean, who had died two years before, Paaske oversaw the distribution of its courses to SMG, the College of Fine Arts, and the School of Education, then joined the SMG faculty. “She influenced as many students there and organized as many events as she had at PAL,” observes Virginia Tierney (PAL’36, SED’68), her PAL sorority sister, longtime friend, and BU colleague. “They all thought the world of her.”
Paaske retired in 1974 and stayed, working with alumni for another three decades and organizing the reunions that held PAL alums together. Paaske’s “amazing ability for organization,” as Tierney says, along with her firmness and charm, meant that PAL reunions remained among the University’s most successful.
“She saw to it the alumni office followed her nine-month reunion organizational schedule, planned menus rather than following the office pattern, and, knowing her alumni individually, made painstaking seating charts,” says Scott Troppy (SPH’98), a former PAL alumni officer. —Natalie Jacobson McCracken
Donald L. Robinson
Age 71, cofounder and former director of the Boston University Washington Internship Program, on April 29.
Robinson and his wife, Sara, both former adjunct professors of political science at the College of Arts and Sciences, founded its Washington Internship Program in 1976. A former congressional staffer, Robinson introduced hundreds of students to the inner workings of government and politics in the twenty-five years that he ran the program.
Robinson earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Northwestern University. He joined the U.S. Navy and served at the Office of Naval Intelligence in Washington, D.C., while completing a doctorate in international relations at American University.
In 1963, Robinson began a career as a congressional staffer. He retired on disability thirteen years later and entered academia. In addition to running the Washington Internship Program at BU, Robinson was an adjunct professor at Texas Southern University and coordinator of the Mickey Leland Congressional Internship Program at the University of Houston’s Center for Public Policy. He also founded Robinson Associates, Inc., an educational and legislative consulting firm that produced training programs for government employees and newly elected members of Congress.
In late 2000, President Bill Clinton appointed Robinson to the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science. Robinson retired from BU the next year to finish his five-year term on the commission and to settle with his wife on Cape Cod. —Katie Koch
Age 80, College of Engineering professor emeritus of electrical and computer engineering, on November 4, 2007.
Wasserman came to BU in 1983 after a long career at GTE Laboratories. He was also an advisor for the Late-Entry Accelerated Program (LEAP), where he counseled working professionals returning to school to earn master’s degrees in engineering.
Wasserman was admired as perpetually cheerful, optimistic, and helpful. In 1992, he was named the University’s Outstanding Engineering Professor of the Year. He retired from the College of Engineering in 1997 but continued to teach part-time.
Wasserman was the author of two popular laboratory manuals, on general electronics and on microelectronic circuits and devices. His research focused primarily on semiconductor processing and electronic circuits. He held bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Virginia and a doctorate in physical chemistry from the University of Michigan. —Katie Koch