Past Presidents

William Fairfield Warren

1873–1903

Educated at Wesleyan University and Andover Theological Seminary, William Warren traveled widely in Europe and studied in Germany before becoming pastor of a Methodist church in Wilbraham, Massachusetts.

In 1867, he became Acting President of Boston Theological School, which would become the School of Theology, the founding college of Boston University. He was appointed President of Boston University in 1873 and served for thirty years. President Warren created a distinctive new university, combining the breadth of the American liberal arts college, the inclusion of professional studies typical of the British university, and the focus on original research of the German university. President Warren championed higher education for all students regardless of religion, race, or sex. During his administration, Boston University became the first university anywhere to award a doctor of philosophy degree to a woman.

William Edwards Huntington

1904–1911

William Huntington grew up in a strongly abolitionist farm family in Illinois and served in the Union Army in the Civil War, where he rose from private to first lieutenant. He attended the University of Wisconsin and the Boston University School of Theology.

Upon receiving his Ph.D. in 1882, his outstanding ability was recognized with his appointment as Dean of the College of Liberal Arts. He was appointed the University's second president in 1904. President Huntington defined his presidency as an attempt to capture in higher education the energy of America's burgeoning cities. He saw Boston University as a new type of "municipal" university, attentive to the needs and opportunities of urban life.

Lemuel Herbert Murlin

1911–1924

Boston University's third president was another midwestern Methodist minister from a rural background. Lemuel Murlin graduated from DePauw University in Indiana in 1891 and served as president of Baker University in Kansas from 1893 until assuming the Boston University presidency in 1911.

President Murlin, like President Huntington, dreamed of a University "in the heart of the city, in the service of the city." In 1920, he purchased a large tract of land between the Charles River and Commonwealth Avenue hoping to unite on a permanent campus the colleges and schools scattered throughout Boston. His campaign to raise funds for the new campus, however, fell short and he resigned in 1924 to accept the presidency of his alma mater, DePauw University.

Daniel L. Marsh

1926–1951

Born on a Pennsylvania farm in 1880, Daniel Marsh attended a one-room school house and became a lay Methodist preacher before winning admission as a junior to Northwestern University. He won a scholarship to Garrett Biblical Institute and then earned a degree from the Boston University School of Theology in 1908. He served as a Methodist minister and administrator with a strong record of creating social welfare programs for the urban poor, until he was called to Boston University in 1925.

As Boston University's fourth president, Daniel Marsh declared that Boston University would instill in students the spirit of "Useful Service for the Sake of Others." President Marsh succeeded in building the new campus that President Murlin had envisioned. He also incorporated Sargent College into the University, and founded the School of Social Work, the School of Nursing, the School of Public Relations (now the College of Communication), and the General College. Among his achievements was his success in guiding the University through severe financial stringency in the Depression and during World War II.

Harold C. Case

1951–1967

Harold Case was born in Cottonwood Falls, Kansas, graduated from Baker University in Kansas, and pursued graduate study at Harvard University, Garrett Biblical Institute, Northwestern University, and Boston University School of Theology. He was a successful minister at several large Methodist churches across the nation before assuming the presidency of Boston University in 1951.

President Case continued the post-war expansion of the University, building new dormitories and establishing the School of Fine and Applied Arts (now the School for the Arts), the College of Engineering, and Metropolitan College. He created the African Studies Program in 1953, and the same year invited the distinguished African-American theologian Howard Thurman to be Dean of Marsh Chapel. President Case fostered a new campus atmosphere and he and his wife Phyllis won national recognition for their "University at Home" program, in which undergraduate students gathered at the Case's home to discuss contemporary issues.

Arland F. Christ-Janer

1967–1970

Arland Christ-Janer, a native of Nebraska, attended Carleton College and then the Yale Divinity School and the University of Chicago Law School. He served as an administrator at Lake Erie College in Ohio and St. John's College in Maryland and as president of Cornell College in Iowa until his appointment in 1967 to the presidency of Boston University.

The first Boston University president who was not also a Methodist minister, President Christ-Janer took office at a time of social unrest. The week of his inauguration, the Students for a Democratic Society declared a Stop the Draft Week. Soon after, an African-American student organization issued a list of demands and staged a non-violent sit-in in the President's Office. President Christ-Janer agreed to all their demands, but campus demonstrations and radical student actions continued. After serving for three years, President Christ-Janer resigned in July 1970. Commencement that year had been canceled because of the threat of violent protests.

John Silber

1971–1996

John Silber grew up in Texas and graduated from Trinity University in San Antonio. He studied theology, enrolled for a year at the University of Texas Law School, and then earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from Yale University. He taught philosophy, served as Chairman of the Philosophy Department, and became Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin. His principled stand against the Board of Regents' plan to dismember the College cost him his job, but brought him to the attention of Boston University.

Appointed president in 1971, John Silber took charge of a university in financial and educational disarray. His first task was to balance the budget, but he also proceeded to hire distinguished new faculty, raise admission standards, expand the campus, build the endowment, re-institute academic requirements, and have protesters who broke the law arrested. His actions during the 1970s provoked opposition and controversy but, by the 1980s, even President Silber's critics conceded that he had transformed Boston University, bringing it recognition for excellence in teaching and research.

In 1989, President Silber accepted an invitation from the School Committee of Chelsea, a small city neighboring Boston, to manage its school system for ten years. President Silber led Boston University's successful effort to establish new curricula in Chelsea's schools and to provide early childhood education, adult literacy programs, and new school buildings. President Silber also established the Prison Education Program and the Boston University Academy, and oversaw the construction of the Arthur G. B. Metcalf Center for Science and Engineering and the Rafik B. Hariri Building for the School of Management. Dr. Silber became Chancellor of the University in 1996.

Jon Westling

1996–2002

Jon Westling was brought up in Yakima, Washington, and graduated from Reed College in Oregon. He received a Rhodes scholarship and studied history at St. John's College, Oxford University. He taught at Centre College in Kentucky, Reed College, University of California, Irvine, and at UCLA. He served Boston University for over two decades in a number of influential positions, including provost, before his appointment as president in 1996. During his tenure, he set six consecutive records for University fund-raising; opened a new complex of apartment-style dormitories; and initiated a dozen major building projects, including new science buildings and new recreational and athletic facilities. He emphasized the importance of academic standards in admissions; streamlined bureaucracy in creating the University Service Center; and set a new tone of campus collegiality.

Mr. Westling resigned from the presidency in July 2002 to return to teaching and research. He currently holds an appointment as Professor of History and Humanities. Chancellor Silber took on presidential responsibilities until he stepped down as Chancellor and Dr. Aram Chobanian became President ad interim in October 2003.

Aram V. Chobanian

2003–2005

Aram Chobanian was born in Pawtucket, Rhode Island and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Brown University and a Doctor of Medicine degree from Harvard Medical School. He became a faculty member at Boston University School of Medicine in 1962 and subsequently served as Head of the Division of Medicine’s Hypertension and Atherosclerosis Section and as Vice-Chairman for Cardiovascular Affairs in the Department of Medicine. A world-renowned cardiologist, Dr. Chobanian became the founding Director of the Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute in 1973. From 1975-95, he also served as Director of the Hypertension Specialized Center of Research funded by the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Chobanian was appointed University Professor and John I. Sandson Distinguished Professor of Health Sciences. He became Dean of the School of Medicine in 1988 and Provost of the Boston University Medical Campus in 1996.

Dr. Chobanian played a leading role in the merger of Boston City Hospital with Boston University Medical Center Hospital to create Boston Medical Center. His leadership was also instrumental in the development of the BioSquare Research Park. In 2003, Boston University School of Medicine, in partnership with Boston Medical Center, received a $128 million federal grant to build a National Biocontainment Laboratory to conduct research into emerging infectious diseases and agents of bioterrorism.

Dr. Aram V. Chobanian was appointed President ad interim in October 2003 and was named President in June of 2005. He assumed his new position at a time of crisis associated with a failed presidential search and problems in University governance. He strengthened the ties between the University and its various constituencies, including faculty, students, staff and alumni and kept the University moving forward to fulfill its academic mission. During his tenure, a new set of governance policies and procedures were established by the Board of Trustees. In addition, the Agganis Arena, the Fitness and Recreation Center, and the Life Science and Engineering Building opened their doors.