Bostonia is published in print three times a year and updated weekly on the web.
Bernard Chasan, a College of Arts & Sciences professor emeritus of physics, died on July 24, 2017.
Born in 1934 in Brooklyn, N.Y., he graduated from Columbia College and earned a PhD in physics from Cornell University. He joined the BU faculty in 1962 and became an integral member of the physics department, which he chaired from 1983 to 1985.
George Zimmerman, a CAS professor emeritus of physics, describes Chasan as “one of the go-to members who could be relied on to help whenever there was a situation that required it.”
Chasan studied nuclear physics and biophysics at BU and became an expert in using an atomic force microscope. “It is really more of an art than a science,” says Rama Bansil, a CAS professor of physics, who collaborated with Chasan on several projects. Chasan, she says, had the right touch.
In addition to his research, Chasan was devoted to his students and to educational outreach efforts. He developed an undergraduate course that used physics as a way to explain biological processes, such as protein folding. The course gave students a firsthand look into biophysics and access to Bansil’s lab.
Colleagues remember Chasan for his friendship, love of music, and great sense of humor.
“He loved puns and would insert them into the conversation given the slightest opportunity,” says William Klein, a CAS professor of physics. “Being with Bernie was always fun and interesting, and he could talk intelligently about almost any subject…. Bernie would always have something of interest to contribute, and it was clear that his opinions were based on a deep, rather than superficial, knowledge. That knowledge came from his inquisitive mind and his wide range of interests.”
Melvin DeFleur, 93, a former College of Communication professor of mass communication, advertising, and public relations, died on February 13, 2017.
DeFleur was on the COM faculty for 10 years and was chair of the mass communication, advertising, and public relations department. He was the author of more than a dozen books; his textbook Theories of Mass Communication, coauthored with Sandra Ball-Rokeach, has been translated into 10 languages.
“Dr. DeFleur is credited with infusing theory into the field of mass communication, and by doing so, setting the research agenda for generations of scholars and as a result fostering the emergence of the scientific facets of our field,” says Michael Elasmar, a COM associate professor of communication. “For many decades, Theories of Mass Communication was widely used as the required textbook in communication theory classes throughout the United States and around the globe. Faculty members young and old recall reading his books during their years of graduate study. DeFleur’s contributions to our field are too numerous to list.”
As department chair, he fostered “a collegial and collaborative work environment and strengthened the academic rigor of the various academic concentrations,” Elasmar says.
In 2011, COM Communication Research Center faculty members named the center’s lecture series in honor of DeFleur and his contributions to mass communication and to the center. Each year the Dr. Melvin L. DeFleur Distinguished Lecture Series brings two distinguished speakers from outside of the University to share their scholarship, expertise, and experience with the BU community.
DeFleur earned a bachelor’s from St. Louis University and a master’s and a doctorate from the University of Washington. He served in the US Marine Corps during World War II.
Joseph Gornbein Gifford, 97, a College of Fine Arts School of Theatre professor emeritus, died on September 12, 2017.
Born on May 14, 1920, in Niagara Falls, N.Y., and raised in Michigan, Gifford lived most of his life in New York City and Boston with his life partner, the late Talbot Waterman, and his African gray parrot, Hero.
After graduating from the University of Michigan, Gifford began his performing career in New York City as a member of the Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman Dance Company. He later formed his own company, the Joseph Gifford Dance Theater, which performed throughout the United States. He danced in several Broadway musicals and taught at the New Dance Group Studio.
Gifford later joined the CFA School of Theatre faculty and established a curriculum in movement training for actors. He remained on the faculty for 25 years. Following his retirement from BU, he developed movement workshops for conductors through the League of American Orchestras and, until his death, continued to teach musicians and conductors to use their body to master their art.
He was a spiritual man, attaining the seventh degree in Authentic Reiki, studying transcendental meditation, and meditating every morning.
In a recent Bostonia profile, stage actor Paula Plum (CFA’75) recalls the influence of Gifford and another faculty member, Rose Shulman. “Joe was my movement teacher,” Plum says. “He was always on the cutting edge, and he led us all to meditation. He became my Reiki teacher. They really kind of believed in the power of the body to tell you what you’re doing onstage…the body has a sort of wisdom of its own that has nothing to do with your mind or what you think about a role. Your physical impulse comes first.”
Gifford was the subject of a documentary, The Legacy of Joseph Gifford (2015), and a recently completed video series, Music of Life (2017).