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Pardee Distinguished Lecture, by Nobel Laureate Murray Gell-Mann, December 2, 6 p.m., SMG Auditorium

Week of 7 November 2003· Vol. VII, No. 11

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Aram Chobanian, BU president ad interim, stresses unity, forward movement

By Brian Fitzgerald

Aram Chobanian Photo by Vernon Doucette


Aram Chobanian Photo by Vernon Doucette


Calling Aram Chobanian an effective and proven administrator, colleagues from both the Charles River Campus and the Medical Campus praised his selection as president ad interim by the BU Board of Trustees. The Medical Campus provost will lead the University while it undertakes the process of hiring a new president. The Board named Chobanian, who has been dean of the School of Medicine since 1988, to the post on October 31.

BU and Daniel Goldin, who was slated to take office on November 1, reached a mutual agreement last week that he would not assume the presidency.

At a meeting of the full Board on October 31, the Trustees also voted to appoint an ad hoc Committee on Governance to consider issues relating to Board structure, composition, and organization. “The committee will also define the search process for the next BU president,” says Dexter Dodge (SMG’56), Board vice chairman. He adds that despite the media spotlight on BU in the past couple of weeks, he doesn’t think the controversy will diminish the University’s reputation.

Chobanian says that his priorities go beyond simply helping the University through a healing process. “I want to get the institution moving ahead, as it has done in the past,” he says. “I’m not someone who just sits still. I think the healing part will happen, and it will happen quickly as we reach out and communicate with our different constituencies. I’m in full swing, looking at what needs to be done to continue the University’s forward movement.”

“ Dr. Chobanian is highly regarded in the medical community, not only in Boston, but all over the country,” says MED Associate Dean Barry Manuel. “He has made outstanding contributions in the area of cardiovascular disease. As an administrator, his strongest quality is his integrity and leadership ability. His people skills are excellent and will help him transition smoothly into his new position. He has all the traits that excellent leadership requires.”

“ We are delighted that Dr. Chobanian has agreed to assume the role of president ad interim of Boston University during this transition period,” says Trustee Chairman Christopher Barreca (DGE’50, LAW’53). “The Board has full confidence in his ability as a leader, a teacher, and a bridge-builder.”

Norman Levinsky, associate provost of the Medical Campus, says that Chobanian’s reputation in academic medicine is evident in his selection as chair of the Joint Committee on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of Hypertension, a prestigious national group that makes recommendations on the management of high blood pressure to American physicians. Levinsky also points to Chobanian’s “impressive achievements during his tenure as dean and provost, including the recruitment of outstanding new chairs, expanding the funding and laboratory space for research, and personal attention to students.”

Underlying Chobanian’s achievements is “a calm, thoughtful manner in dealing with all categories of people,” says Levinsky. “This skill, together with his high intelligence, should serve him and BU well in his new position.”

Faculty Council Chairman Herbert Voigt, an ENG biomedical engineering professor, says that Chobanian is also a “fabulous fundraiser and a warm colleague, with many ties to the faculty from which he emerged.” Chobanian met with members of the Faculty Council leadership and four members of the Board of Trustees on November 3, Voigt says, and “he has committed to improving the communication channels between faculty and the Board. He is forward-looking and I believe he will be a wonderful leader for Boston University.”

School of Management Dean Louis Lataif says that as well as an “impeccable” reputation, Chobanian “has a very compassionate, collaborative style of leadership that is a great strength. But he is also steadfast in his convictions. Both temperamentally and intellectually, he’s an outstanding choice to lead the University through this transition period.”

It’s difficult to quickly pinpoint and sum up his leadership style, Chobanian says, but “I’m one who utilizes all the talents that are available to build, and that includes faculty and students. I’ve had regular meetings with students on the Medical Campus, and I’ve had very good relationships with the faculty there. I’ve not had as much interaction, obviously, with faculty and students on the Charles River Campus, but I think these kind of relationships have helped me a good deal in building a great Medical Campus, and will serve the entire University well in the future.”

Chobanian, a MED faculty member for 40 years, and Medical Campus provost for the past 7, has overseen major curriculum revisions and departmental organizations, and created three new departments: emergency medicine, family medicine, and genetics. Under his leadership, research funding has almost tripled, to about $160 million for the School of Medicine and about $250 million for the entire Medical Campus.

During his administration, the BioSquare Research Park has been developed on the Medical Campus, and on September 30 the BU Medical Center was awarded a federal grant of approximately $120 million to build a National Biocontainment Laboratory. He also played an important part in unifying the Medical Campus during the 1996 merger between the former Boston City Hospital and Boston University Medical Center Hospital. Clinical departments and services were combined, creating Boston Medical Center.

Chobanian’s role in the merger, which ensured that thousands of poor and uninsured patients in Boston would continue to receive first-rate health care, was lauded by Elaine Ullian, president and CEO of Boston Medical Center. She also points out his subsequent recruitment of top doctors from around the country to the facility, which is the primary teaching affiliate of the BU School of Medicine.

“ He has a warm and engaging style,” she says. “That has made him extremely good at fundraising because he can talk to people about supporting the University and the donors feel that they have a partner in the University.” Chobanian will have a “stabilizing influence” on BU, according to Ullian.

Milestones in Chobanian’s career include his founding of the Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute at BU in 1973, leading the National Institutes of Health–funded Specialized Center of Research in Hypertension from 1975 to 1995, and chairing a panel this year that developed new national guidelines for hypertension. The author of more than 250 articles and two books and the recipient of numerous awards, he received his bachelor’s degree from Brown University and his M.D. from Harvard Medical School.

Chobanian sent a letter to the BU community on October 31 saying that during his tenure, “my focus will be on our schools and colleges, our faculty and staff, and most importantly, our students. I have spent 40 years as a member of the Boston University community, which I have come to love, respect, and admire. I will do everything possible to support this institution and the people who have made it the outstanding university it is today.”

University holiday on November 17

Although inaugural activities planned for later this month have been canceled, BU President ad interim Aram Chobanian, in a November 4 e-mail to faculty, staff, and students, announced that November 17 will remain a University holiday according to the schedule established within each school and department.

“ Over the next few days,” wrote Chobanian, “the Office of the Dean of Students will announce a program of student activities, including community service opportunities. I hope you find the day productive.”


7 November 2003
Boston University
Office of University Relations