• Rich Barlow

    Senior Writer

    Photo: Headshot of Rich Barlow, an older white man with dark grey hair and wearing a grey shirt and grey-blue blazer, smiles and poses in front of a dark grey backdrop.

    Rich Barlow is a senior writer at BU Today and Bostonia magazine. Perhaps the only native of Trenton, N.J., who will volunteer his birthplace without police interrogation, he graduated from Dartmouth College, spent 20 years as a small-town newspaper reporter, and is a former Boston Globe religion columnist, book reviewer, and occasional op-ed contributor. Profile

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There are 7 comments on BU President Emeritus Aram Chobanian (Hon.’06) Dies at 94; Helped Stabilize the University in Tumultuous Period

  1. I was fortunate to have the guidance of Dr. Chobanian during my final years as Dean at BUSSW. He was a sensitive and caring mentor who understood a great deal about the human condition. I was grateful to have his leadership during difficult and unsettling administrative times.

  2. I am honored to have shared Aram Chobanian’s love of music, and to help him realize performances of his song compositions. His music and poetry shared his immense and beautiful heart, and his love for Jasmine and their cherished family. Rest well, Aram, and thank you..

  3. I often regale friends and colleagues with tales of the “tumultuous period” at BU referred to in this article. I always conclude by telling of the immediate and tangible sense of rationality and fairness that pervaded the campus as soon as Chobanian to the helm. Truly, he pulled the university out of the fire, setting the stage for the ensuing period of growth. We will always be in his debt.

  4. Aram Chobanian was my mentor while I was a BUSM student in the late 1960’s. I wrote my senior paper on Platelets and Atherosclerosis which he reviewed and offered many helpful suggestions. I got an A. He was my role model and influenced my choice of Cardiology as my career path. We communicated periodically over the years and I arranged for him to speak at the Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute @ Baptist Health on Renovascular Denervation for Resistant Hypertension which was a thrill for me personally. I am also happy that the Med School bears his name and I know that countless students benefitted from his teaching and guidance as I was. My sincere condolences to his family and the BUSM community.

  5. This statement from President Freeman could not be truer:

    “When the next history of Boston University is written […], I believe the author—or authors—will affirm that among our presidents, none had a greater impact over a shorter term.”

    To understand why, one needs to know exactly how “tumultuous” those times were when Prosident Chobanian took over the helm at BU. The BU Board of Trustees had disgraced itself with fiduciary mismanagement (prompting the second round of scrutiny by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office in under a decade) because of the Goldin fiasco. News coverage of the latter had turned BU into a national laughingstock.

    The event that sparked BU’s revoking of its offer to Goldin was primarily because he had announced, well before his scheduled arrival on campus, that he planned to “clean house”—i.e., remove the strongly entrenched administrative apparatus with which Silber had ruled over BU for several decades. Goldin was absolutely right about the need to carry out the house-cleaning. Otherwise, he would have great difficulty cultivating his own vision of BU’s institutional future. (Note that Silber had worked it out so that he would be able to stay in his presidential mansion on Carlton St. even after the arrival of a new president.)

    Goldin, even after having run NASA down in Washington, underestimated the complexities of academia. These include the dynamics of boards of trustees. In BU’s case, the dynamics involved considerable financial dealings between BU Board members and the institution over which they had fiduciary responsibility. (Readers interested in finding out more should look into Attorney General Scott Harbargar’s investigation of the early nineties—the Seragen scandal which ended up on “Sixty Minutes”, etc.). A large component of the BU Board was looking to prolong the arrangements they had under the Silber administration.

    President Chobanian was no doubt aware of the problems that Goldin had identified in his assessment of BU. Rather than foolishly announcing a massive “house-cleaning”, however, he chose a quieter and ultimately much more effective path.

    In the two years of his presidency, one noted a steady stream of BU administrators who had suddenly seen the light and had decided to pursue their ambitious objectives elsewhere. It was, in effect, a “purge”, but carried out with highly effective discretion. Meanwhile, reformers on the BU Board (e.g., David D’Alessandro and Jeffrey Katzenberg)—whose hand had been strengthened by actions taken by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office starting with the Harshbarger intervention in the nineties—slowly worked to bring about important changes without which little progress could be made. (Silber loyalists on the Board had essentially de facto lifetime appointments; he controlled the Board rather than the other way around.)

    President Chobanian’s quiet work during his two years in the position helped to pave the way for President Robert Brown’s highly successful presidency. After his arrival, President Brown appears to have followed the Chobanian approach of a “quiet purge” of those elements of the Silber administration that needed to be removed. Reformers on the Board (again, with de facto backing of the Massachusetts AG Office) also filled their role. (The Board today looks extremely different from the way it looked under Silber.)

    Concluding, much of this whole story will probably never be told (and yes, we need to focus on the future…). But those of us who have witnessed the transformation undergone at BU over the last 20 years—thanks, in significant measure, to President Chobanian’s crucial stint as President—will remain eternally grateful to him.

    (The author of these lines taught in the College of Arts and Sciences from 1974 to 2023. He served as Vice Chair Chair, and Past Chair of the BU Faculty Council from 1992 to 1995; he served on the Ad Hoc Committee on Communications of the BU Faculty Council from 2003 to 2007, service which involved interaction with President Chobanian in the wake of the Goldin fiasco.)

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