The BU Academy presents Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music on May 23 and 24, at 7 p.m., at SFA Studio 104

Vol. IV No. 33   ·   11 May 2001 


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BU's 2001 honorary degree recipients

The University will confer upon the following individuals honorary degrees for their efforts to improve their communities and for their philanthropy. Sila M. Calderón, the governor of Puerto Rico, who is delivering this year's Commencement speech, will be presented with the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

Leonard Florence
Doctor of Laws


As a young man, Leonard Florence was befriended by Dewey David Stone, a Massachusetts entrepreneur and BU benefactor. BU's Stone Science Building is named for Stone (SMG'20) and his brother, Harry K. Stone (LAW'16,'17). Fortunately for scores of charitable organizations, Florence learned from Stone not only how to succeed in business, but the importance of giving back to society.

The chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Syratech Corporation, an East Boston company that specializes in sterling silverware and other tabletop and gift products, Florence (SMG'54) has supported such causes as Boston's Catholic Charities and the Muscular Dystrophy Association, as well as BU's School of Management. Recently, Florence and his friend Irwin Chafetz (CAS'58) gave BU a $2.5 million naming gift for a new Hillel building on the Charles River Campus.

A native of Chelsea, Mass., who was born to Russian immigrants, Florence met Stone when he was an ambitious teenager working in a Boston jewelry store. Stone took Florence under his wing, and was so impressed by him that he eventually paid the younger man's way through BU. After graduating, Florence went to work for Stone's small silver company, Raimond Silver, and helped turn around the struggling enterprise in just a few years by forming partnerships with larger companies that purchased its products and sold them as extensions of their own line.

With his share of the profits from the sale of Raimond Silver in 1969, Florence that year formed his own silver company, Leonard Silver. By lowering prices and modernizing the production of silverware products, Leonard Silver grew steadily, eventually merging in 1978 with Towle, one of the oldest American companies in the silver business. When the silver market collapsed in the early 1980s, Florence bought several other companies, with the idea of pushing more products through Towle's distribution channels.

In 1986 Florence formed Syratech Corporation, which today is the holding company for Towle manufacturing, International Silver Company, Tuttle Sterling, and Wallace Silversmiths. Syratech is a leading producer of silver flatware, such as knives, forks, and spoons, and hollowware, such as bowls and dishes.

Florence is on the board of directors of the Cardinal Cushing School and Training Center for Children of All Faiths in Hanover, Mass., the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in Boston, the Race to Erase Multiple Sclerosis Foundation in Los Angeles, the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, Catholic Charities of Boston, and several other organizations. In 1993 Florence was named a Knight of St. Gregory, the highest honor given by the Catholic Church, by Pope John Paul II in recognition of his charity. He holds several honorary degrees.

Thomas M. Menino
Doctor of Laws


When Thomas M. Menino was elected mayor of Boston in 1993, politicians were hotly debating how to develop the city. Menino's vision was to rebuild Boston's residential base by improving public safety, the public schools, and the basic quality of life. Many critics said it was an impossible task because the city was destined to lose its middle-class population.

The Boston press dubbed Menino "the urban mechanic" soon after he become mayor, however, as he dramatically increased the number of police officers in the city and implemented community policing, spurred educational reforms by appointing Thomas Payzant as school superintendent and helping to negotiate a new contract between the Boston School Department and the Boston Teachers Union, and pushed through such initiatives as a graffiti cleanup program. In his State of the City speech this January, he summarized his accomplishments and future goals: "Schools that work, streets that are safe, and jobs for Boston residents."

During his tenure as mayor, Menino also has created the nation's first citywide Main Street Program to revitalize business districts. The mayor supported the merger of Boston City Hospital and the Boston University Medical Center Hospital, which many observers say preserved good health-care delivery and health-care jobs in Boston, as well as helped stabilize the city's finances.

Before being elected mayor (he was acting mayor for four months in 1993 after former Mayor Ray Flynn was named U.S. ambassador to the Vatican), Menino served for nine years as a Boston City Councilor from the Hyde Park neighborhood. As a councilor, he helped establish the City of Boston Scholarship Fund, which enables qualified students to attend local colleges and universities.

Boston's first mayor of Italian descent, Menino is a lifelong resident of Hyde Park. He graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas High School and in 1988 earned a bachelor of arts degree in community planning from the University of Massachusetts at Boston. Menino serves on the Advisory Committee of the National League of Cities and chairs the Task Force on Mayors and Public Schools and the Subcommittee on Enterprise Zones for the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Kathryn Underwood Silber
Doctor of Humane Letters


In a 1990 profile of Kathryn Underwood Silber, the Boston Globe wrote that although she rarely speaks publicly about her husband's guidance of Boston University, "as John Silber's partner and confidante, she's privy to everything."

It is true, according to those who have worked closely with Kathryn Silber, that behind her intensely private persona is an independent-minded, intellectual woman who had a vital part in her husband's success in leading Boston University for 25 years.

"Mrs. Silber is an incredibly intelligent person who always knows what's going on in the world," says Julia C. Pratt (CAS'48, Hon.'78), who was John Silber's secretary from 1971 until her retirement in 1982. "If ever I asked for her opinion, she always gave it, and she gave it as she says and does everything -- quietly. She is also a truly kind person, very nice, and generous."

Kathryn Silber was born in Normanna, Tex., one of two children. Her father was a farmer who also worked as a carpenter and as an oil field worker to make ends meet during the Great Depression. The family moved to San Antonio, when she was 15. She attended Trinity University, majoring in philosophy and graduating in 1946. At Trinity she met fellow student John Silber, also a Texas native, and the two were married in 1947, when both were 20. "I knew, right from the beginning, that it was wonderful to be with John," she told the Globe. "He made me laugh. More important, I made him laugh."

Kathryn and John Silber have lived on the BU campus since 1971, when Silber became the University's president. He stepped down as president in 1996 and was named BU's chancellor. The Silbers raised seven children and two wards, and have 26 grandchildren. In 1998, the couple gave $1 million to BU for full-tuition scholarships for graduates of Texas public schools who attend the College of Arts and Sciences. Mrs. Silber is a longtime member both of BU's Women's Guild and Women's Council.

Mrs. Silber's passion, she told the Globe, has always been raising and caring for her family. "While I'm a traditionalist, I'm also a feminist," she said. "Women nurture the family. Women hold the family together . . . Women who mother professionally deserve more admiration and respect than they get."

Says Pratt, "Mrs. Silber is devoted to her husband and children, and anyone who has been around the Silbers knows how much love is there and what a strong mother she is. But she is also her own person, always herself. You always know exactly who she is, and I think everyone who knows her respects her deeply for that."

Nicholas C. Triantafilou
Doctor of Humane Letters


Nicholas C. Triantafilou was ordained to the priesthood in 1964 and has served the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America in ministries in Massachusetts, Texas, Georgia, and Colorado. He has been president of Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, both in Brookline, Mass., since August 1, 2000.

Triantafilou oversaw the growth of the congregation of the Annunciation Cathedral in Houston, Tex., from 320 to 1,800 parishioners during his 22 years there, beginning in 1965. In 1970, he established the Annunciation Greek Orthodox School in Houston, a respected private college that now enrolls 650 students. He also directed a weekly interdenominational radio talk show in Houston for many years.

In 1987, Triantafilou began to focus on leadership and administrative duties within his church. He was named vicar general of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America that year, traveling extensively. In 1992, he became director of the Archbishop Iakovos Leadership 100 Endowment Fund, and two years later, chancellor of the Archdiocese. Subsequently, Triantafilou returned to the ministry briefly, and then became director of the Boston Diocese's Camp and Retreat Center before accepting his current positions in Brookline.

Born in Woburn, Mass., Triantafilou received a bachelor of arts degree from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in 1963, and a master of arts in theology from Saint Thomas University in Houston in 1970.

He has served on the board of directors of the Texas Conference of Churches, the Houston Metropolitan Ministries, and the Harris County Children's Protective Services. He currently is a member of the board of directors of the International Orthodox Christian Charities.


11 May 2001
Boston University
Office of University Relations