June 23rd, 2014

Volunteer spotlight

A conversation with Andy Lack (CFA’68)

Andy Lack—CEO of the Bloomberg Media Group, a BU trustee, chair of the College of Communication’s campaign, and donor of a COM professorship—recently sat down for a conversation with the Campaign Newsletter.

Q: You are a CFA grad with a strong interest in acting. How did you come to work closely with COM and Dean Tom Fiedler?

AL: Well, when did Tom start? 2008, I think, about when I joined the Board of Trustees. There had been a search going on for a new dean in the journalism school, and Tom got the nod. I thought, Terrific! A Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist coming to Boston University, and bringing those skills to the classroom and to a leadership position!

I had spent a good part of my professional life in journalism, and I figured that if I was going to do something more significant as a trustee, it probably made sense to hang around COM and see what Tom was up to. That’s how we got to know each other.

Q: Why did you decide to establish a professorship in journalism and the business of media?

AL: I wanted the individual who occupied that chair to be a journalist first—not an academic, but someone who practiced journalism. And then, secondarily, I wanted someone who understood both the business side of media and the so-called creative side. I thought journalists needed to be understood better by the business people, and vice versa. So I wanted this chair to look at that.

On the digital side—and I’m increasingly a digital-first guy—the walls between editorial and business are crumbling. Some of that’s good, some of that’s complicated, and some of that’s confusing. At BU, we need to get into that intersection, where things need to be sorted out. So I’m excited about the chair occupying that territory.

Q: So does New York Times media columnist David Carr, who was named the first incumbent of the Lack Chair in January, embody those different attributes?

AL: I don’t think there’s anybody who could do it better. David’s column is a must-read every Monday. He knows the field intimately. He’s a great writer. He’s a great thinker.

Q: You trained as an actor at CFA. Do you keep up with the craft of acting, in the sense that you watch established actors evolve and new actors emerge?

AL: I do. Once it’s in your blood it’s difficult to get out. I’ve gone back and forth. I’ve made some films. I’ve been involved with the music business and worked with artists—all of which has often made me suspect amongst my closest journalist friends and news colleagues. But it started when I was a college student, and it stayed with me all my life.

The people were there to be called upon, and they have responded.” —Andy Lack

Q: Observations about the progress of the BU campaign?

AL: Just how successful it’s been, so far. And that’s a tribute to the development people, to the board, and especially to President Brown.

Q: How would you characterize the board’s role in the campaign?

AL: Very active. I think all of us feel a serious and personal responsibility to do our part. Not just opening our own checkbooks, but also talking about BU with everyone we can reach, and touch directly, because we know this school well. We sit together as a group and talk about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead of us. So at the end of the day, who better to proselytize for BU and what Boston University is going to be in the 21st century?

Q: Were you surprised to find out that there are a lot of alumni out there who are really happy with their BU experience and willing to support the university?

AL: Well, of course, it’s heartening! But I wouldn’t say it was a surprise. The people were there to be called upon, and they have responded. Again, I’d point to leadership. It’s about leadership at every level—the individual colleges, the faculties, and the board, and most particularly, Bob Brown. It’s about pulling people together, telling the BU story. That’s what is most heartening to me, when I see where we’re at in the campaign. It’s pretty damn great.

Q: Last question: Why should people support Boston University?

AL: I’ll use the same word—leadership—in a different way. BU is a leader. If you look around the place, college by college, you see that. You see quality. People should support quality—and as it turns out, they do.

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