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Chobanian seen as serene, able leader

Aram V. Chobanian, appointed yesterday as Boston University's interim president, is the longtime medical school dean and has been described by colleagues and in past news reports as cheerful, quiet, and even peaceful.

None of those words would probably be used in the same sentence with the name of John Silber, BU's longtime leader, nor Dan Goldin, the former head of NASA who came within a day of assuming the presidency.

Colleagues said yesterday that Chobanian, 74, is an able leader, a good scientist, and a calming presence.

"He's one of the most distinguished deans in American medicine," said Harvard Medical School dean Joseph B. Martin, who is also a friend of Chobanian. "He is just a wonderfully compassionate and innovative person who everyone trusts."

Chobanian was not a candidate for the president's job this year, and he is not expected to submit his name when the search for a permanent leader begins anew. In fact, Chobanian was planning his retirement, Dexter Dodge, vice-chair of the board of trustees said yesterday.

"During my tenure, I will bring a fresh perspective and hope not only to keep our institution running smoothly, but also to continue to move it forward," Chobanian wrote in a letter to the BU community yesterday.

Chobanian has been at BU for 40 years. He has been dean for 15 years and, for seven years, provost of the BU Medical Campus, having overseen the unification of the former Boston City Hospital and BU Medical Center Hospital.

He recently helped BU win a $128 million federal contract for a biocontainment lab to conduct research on viruses and other life forms that could be used for bioterrorism. During his tenure, applications to the medical school have more than doubled, and research funding has almost tripled, BU said.

"He is a world-renowned cardiologist and, more than that, he is a serene, peaceful kind of man who is also tough in the sense of getting things done," said BU trustee Dr. Esther Hopkins yesterday.

Chobanian lives in Natick and is married to Jasmine Goorigian. They have three children.

Marcella Bombardieri can be reached at

Daniel S. Goldin Daniel S. Goldin
Aram Chobanian Aram Chobanian (Courtesy BU)
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