Trinity Distinguished Alumnus passes away at 86 years old

John Silber (‘47) stands in front of a street named in his honor. Silber was named Trinity’s Distinguished Alumnus in 1975 and recently passed away on Sept. 27. Photo from

On Sept. 27, John Silber (’47) passed away at the age of 86. Silber graduated from Trinity University with bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and fine arts and minored in German and music.

While at Trinity, Silber founded the Triniteers fraternity and became their first president. He also was a member of the debate team where he met his wife Kathryn Underwood (’46). After graduating, Silber spent a year at Yale Divinity School, then enrolled at the University of Texas Law School only to return to Yale to earn a doctorate in philosophy. In 1975, Silber was named a Trinity Distinguished Alumnus.

From 1971 to 1996, Silber served as the president of Boston University.

During his tenure, Silber increased the university’s endowment from $18.8 million to $654 million, doubled the size of the school’s physical plant and enrollment and toughened admissions standards.

Silber also added to the faculty with Nobel Prize winners Elie Wiesel, Derek Walcott and Saul Bellow and  future U.S. poet laureate, Robert Pinsky soprano Phyllis Curtin and literary critics Christopher Ricks and Roger Shattuck.

Silber ran for governor of Massachusetts but lost by a small margin and later became chairman of the state Board of Education from 1995 to 1999. He led the way in developing the MCAS exams which are used in public schools throughout Massachusetts.

Silber is survived by his seven children, their 26 children and three great-grandchildren.

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