Monday, September 19, 2005

Who Is This Mystery Man?

Well, I guess he'd have to be another one of my Impressive People. To my knowledge, he is not someone who believes God, though I think he would certainly say that he believes in God. But he's still an impressive guy.

This man was born without a left arm; or to be more exact, his left arm ends at the elbow in a bony little something-or-other. He was born to a large family in Texas, who early recognised an amazingly sharp mind when they saw it, and sent him off to be educated classically. He was always small, and I don't think his height ever broke 5'6". But that didn't stop him, and neither did his lack of a left hand. He simply found new ways to use that left arm: if any schoolyard kid razzed him, he quickly learned that the bony end of his arm was quite an effective weapon-- and he made good use of it more than once. People learned not to mess with him physically, and it didn't take long to learn that they could not mess with him mentally either.

This man is John Silber, president of Boston University while I was there between 1976 and 1980, and before that time and after, author, artist, and teacher. Even today, he is behaving like a president of BU, though he is technically chancellor. While I was at BU, he was embroiled in conflict between the administration of the University and the unionised professors, who actually went on strike. Silber was the man everyone loved to hate, but Silber didn't care. More than once I saw him walking down Commonwealth Avenue on his way to the office from his house-- alone and unprotected-- and looking chirpy and suave in a navy beret and overcoat tailored to show the end of his arm. Moxie is the word.

My hat is off to you, Herr Professor Doctor Silber!


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