• Art Jahnke

    Senior Contributing Editor

    Art Janke

    Art Jahnke began his career at the Real Paper, a Boston area alternative weekly. He has worked as a writer and editor at Boston Magazine, web editorial director at CXO Media, and executive editor in Marketing & Communications at Boston University, where his work was honored with many awards. Profile

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There are 14 comments on Remembering Former BU President Jon Westling

  1. Jon Westling served as President of Boston University when I earned my first degree here. Prior to that he had served as Acting President during both John Silber’s sabbatical (1987-1988) and his run for Governor (1990-1991).

    I was always impressed by the fact that Westling, as our 8th President, would carve out time each semester to meet in open forums for students in the residence halls. He hosted caring, forthright conversations with the students, and he always seemed to remember Residence Life staff by name.

    Years later, he graciously agreed to visit with students of my History of Boston University course, always demonstrating respectful deference to predecessors and successors alike as he retold his own lived history of the University. He prided himself on stressing educational standards at BU during his tenure while also meeting record benchmarks for fundraising, no small feat for a large, private, urban university.

    Boston University is better for Westling’s service as President and for his humble, long-standing teaching of medieval history. He’ll be missed.

  2. A great loss, a true friend, a mentor and one of the best listeners I’ve ever encountered. Humbled and privileged to have known him and to have worked with him. May he RIP, he is very fondly remembered.

  3. When once asked, What is the purpose of a university, he paused then said, To weigh the evidence, to seek the truth.

    I cannot remember the occasion of that exchange other than that it occurred on television, local programming I think. He may have been being interviewed, it had the feeling of a one-on-one conversation. I will always remember that specific response of his.

  4. Sad news. I didn’t know him well, but I was fortunate enough to be part of a Core Curriculum discussion section that he led, shortly before he became president. Our group met every week in his office, I think so we students could experience a more comfortable setting than a CAS building classroom but also so he could smoke during class. The quirk that always comes to mind whenever I think of Jon Westling was his tendency to smoke only half a cigarette, put it out, then light up another and do the same.

  5. I once traveled to Japan with Jon Westling, then Provost, to deliver a series of lectures on financial risk management. The audience were members of the Options and Futures Exchange of Osaka, and the lectures were fairly technical. Finance was not one of his areas of expertise, to put it mildly. Yet at the conclusion of the event, he delivered an insightful and inspiring speech on the role of risk management in society. He was a genuine intellectual and a gifted speaker.

  6. He was a wonderful scholar and a good man. As an undergraduate, he very generously responded to a post I put out looking for particular poems. I was flabbergasted that the then vp would answer a random undergrad. I got to know him better as a teacher, exacting and inspiring, and later I taught with him in the Core, where he was a generous and genuine colleague. What a privilege to hear him read poems, esp Auden on the death of Yeats. He will be very missed. Earth, receive another honored guest.

  7. In early 1987, Jon Westling interviewed me for a faculty position, amid clouds of cigarette smoke in his office at 143 BSR. John Silber, who usually looked at potential opportunity recruits, was away, so I had what might have been a quieter ride. For most of the time we discussed medieval history – I had been reading “Montaillou”, and Jon asked me how I’d study that Pyrenaean village archaeologically. Then he asked me what I wanted from BU, adding “salary is not a problem, what else do you want?”

    When I arrived in Fall 1988 I went to reintroduce myself, and for the first of many occasions we found ourselves at lunch somewhere downmarket – Red Bones across the river was one of Jon’s favorites. I found him one of the most provocatively-intelligent people I’ve ever met, and one of the fastest intellectual guns in the East.

    In 1990 we were both speaking at a conversazione in Melbourne, Australia, organized by University Professors chairman Claudio Véliz, on “The Public Face of Architecture”. Boston’s then Mayor, Kevin White, was with us, taking about the regeneration of downtown Boston, and other speakers came from around the globe. After three days of papers on a variety of themes, Jon got up ten minutes after the last presentation and, without notes, gave a two-hour summary and critique of the entire meeting which made us all think afresh.

  8. I am saddened by Jon’s passing, partly because I never thanked him enough. When my then-wife and I moved to London in 1998, thinking we would be there for five years, I tendered my resignation from BU. Jon refused to accept it. “I’m putting you on Extended Leave,” he said. “Come back whenever you want.” After only a year in London we moved to Philadelphia, which I hated. I drove up to Boston and met with Jon and told him I wanted to come back. I asked if there were any admin positions I might have, but he said, “I want you back on the faculty.” He called the dean of COM, whom, I believe, was still Brent Baker, and just like that I was back in harness as a COM prof. Thank you, Jon! I greatly appreciated his friendship, and admired his scholarship. He was a good man, and a fine leader for the University.

  9. Westling, Silber ! What a combination of scholars and men of the highest calibre.

    Boston University is the beneficiary of the synergy of their talents, intellect and joie de vivre.

    Requiescat in pace Jon

  10. Some of the professors didn’t want him because he didnt have a PhD. It didn t matter about his other qualifications ,Academic snobbery
    I didnt like the quote that he would return administrative typed papers with a error with a cigarette burn . No need for that

  11. During the Oct. 27 memorial service for President Emeritus Jon
    Westling, it was mentioned that he was a fan of black blues
    and jazz, subjects that I had researched immensely in low-class
    bars near USMC and Navy bases in the south during the fifties.
    At the end of the service, a black guy moved quietly to
    piano in Marsh Chapel and played quietly and gradually
    grew louder. He was amazing. It was the best memorial
    service music that I have ever encountered. And I attend
    a lot of funerals these days.

    Jim Brann, former professor of Journalism. Chairman
    of Journalism—-1973-80. (Newton Center)

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