BOSTON (CBS/AP) — Former Boston University president and one-time Democratic candidate for governor of Massachusetts John Silber died Thursday morning.

john silber1 Former BU President John Silber Dies

John Silber in 2011. (Photo credit: Jacob Villanueva/ The Texas Tribune)

A university spokesman told WBZ-TV that Silber’s family was by his side when he passed away at his home in Brookline.

No cause was immediately given, but Silber had been battling liver disease.

He was 86.

WBZ News Radio 1030’s Lana Jones reports

Silber took over BU, then a financially troubled commuter school of middling reputation, in 1971 and used his forceful personality to remake it into a prominent national university.

“Even his worst enemies, if they were honest, would acknowledge he did a fantastic job of transforming that university into a major world class institution with a solid funding base and a leader in the arts,” WBZ-TV’s Jon Keller said.

Former Senate President William Bulger remembered Silber as “an independent spirit” and someone who always thought for himself.

“He insisted he think for himself, he brought that as a wonderful strength and example to all of us,” Bulger told WBZ News Radio 1030. “He taught by example, he was determined to do that. He recognized people paid greater attention to what he did rather than what he said.”

Erudite and combative, he was an outspoken critic of political correctness and popular culture, but considered himself a liberal on many issues.

“He carried with him his strong belief that he could do the best for the general good by being himself and speaking his own mind honestly, forthrightly and very frequently controversially,” Bulger said.

He was the Democratic nominee for governor in 1990, but narrowly lost to Republican William Weld.

Many blamed that defeat on a television interview during which he snapped at a reporter.

Silber was also head of the state Board of Education.  He was instrumental in developing the MCAS tests.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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