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Government and Community Affairs VP Ed King to Retire

Legacy of improved relations with city, state, neighborhoods


Edward King says that engaging directly with the community and earning people’s trust were keys to his success as vice president for government and community affairs.

It was St. Patrick’s Day and Edward M. King, sporting a shamrock tie to mark the occasion, was standing behind the desk in his third floor Bay State Road office fiddling with his computer to stop the Irish music lilting from the speakers.

Along one side of the dark-paneled room was a shelf packed with photographs highlighting his career at BU—Boston mayors and University presidents here, Celtics legend Larry Bird (Hon.’09) there.

Now, after nearly a quarter of a century as vice president for government and community affairs, the outgoing and affable King is retiring.

“It’s just time to get out and do my own thing,” says King, who plans to start a company and pursue other business ventures after his departure on June 30. “I’ve been approached probably every year by people to see if I want to go and work for them or with them. But I really enjoyed working here.”

Before arriving at BU, King worked for the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and for nearly a decade in various positions with the city of Boston. His toughest task, he says, was under Mayor Kevin White in the 1970s, when he traveled door-to-door with police and school personnel to familiarize South Boston families about the city’s new busing policy. Designed to end school desegregation, the court-ordered busing led to protests and threats of violence.

“Anything that I’ve done here really couldn’t compare to that time,” King says.

The University has changed greatly since King first arrived in 1987. Relations with state officials, the city of Boston, and the surrounding neighborhoods were less than stellar. Securing building permits for campus construction and getting the State House to pass legislation central to the University’s growth was an uphill battle.

“We got very little approved back then,” he recalls.

Fast forward a couple of decades and the story is quite different. More than $1 billion in new construction along Commonwealth Avenue and on the Medical Campus has been approved during King’s tenure. Today, the University boasts a strong relationship with the State House, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino (Hon.’01), and surrounding neighborhood groups, and much of the credit for that goes to King.

“For almost 20 years, Ed King has been the backbone of the University’s external relations with our neighboring communities, cities, and the state,” says President Robert A. Brown. “Under his guidance the University has grown both physically and in its engagement with our neighborhoods, Boston, and Brookline. I know Ed will look back on his many accomplishments with a great deal of pride.”

Engaging directly with the community and earning people’s trust were keys to King’s success, he says. “In this business, follow-up is so important. I never told people I would do something I couldn’t do.”

Pam Beale, chairperson of the BU Community Task Force, has worked with King since his first week on the job. She credits him with establishing a continuous dialogue between the University and the community, especially when new construction—like the Student Village, Agganis Arena, or the Photonics Center—was in the works.

“Ed used the community as a sounding board and fleshed out problems beforehand,” Beale says. “He sort of took down the wall between the community and the University.”

King is proud of programs such as CityLab, an annual science education outreach for 6,000 students in grades 7 to 12 and their teachers, and the Holiday Reading Program, in which hundreds of University varsity and club athletes visit 19 Boston public schools in December and read to children. Both started during his tenure and encourage interaction between University students and staff and area youth.

“What I tried to do is bring the community here, get them on campus,” King says, “and let them see BU’s not just this big place—try to make BU part of the Boston community.”

He also served on search committees that brought major talent to campus, including former President Jon Westling, BU Police Chief Thomas Robbins, and men’s basketball head coach Dennis Wolff.

But all that pales in comparison to what he calls the highlight of his BU career. “My son graduated last year from here, and I got to present him with his diploma,” says King with a grin. “That made it all worth it.” Pictures of his son, Charles (SHA’10), are scattered about his office.

Looking back on nearly two and a half decades at BU, King says the most difficult part of his job was making sure the president’s agenda was forwarded by the government and community affairs office, and not by “free agents” around the University pushing potentially adverse interests. Each president he served under (four by his count) had distinctive strengths, he says. “I’ve taken a little something from each one of them. I’ve had some good role models over the years.”

Now it’s his turn to strike out on his own. He looks forward to launching his new business and dedicating more time to his family (including new puppy Lucy), boating, gardening, and cooking.

“I’m 65; I can’t keep on saying no” to potential opportunities, King says. “I’m ready—I’m more than ready. And I think I’ll still stay in close contact with BU.”

Leslie Friday can be reached at lfriday@bu.edu; follow her on Twitter at @lesliefriday.

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