It all started back in 1955 when Elliot Driben was an 11 year old boy with cerebral palsy. At that tender age he began seven years of speech therapy with Boston University Professor Albert Murphy. Ever since then Driben has felt nothing but gratitude for what he got from B.U., and when he became an adult, he started giving back in spades.
Today Driben is a dedicated sports fan, and it shows. Even at the age of 68, with mobility on the wane, he rarely misses a B.U. sporting event. Whether its softball games, swim meets, womens’ rowing or his favorite, hockey, Driben is there. But Driben doesn’t just attend sporting events; he has a real concern for the athletes who participate in them. Every time he meets a new athlete, he always asks the questions: what is your name, major, and plans for the future?
“He’s at everything,” said Jill Cardella, a captain on the women’s hockey team. “He doesn’t discriminate between men’s and women’s, high-profile or low-profile sport. It’s the time he spends. We feel we should give back to him — and how can you not?”
Jack Parker has known Driben during his forty years of coaching men’s hockey. Parker calls Driben B.U.’s greatest fan. Other people that know Driben say he is like the mayor of “Terrier Nation.” Either way Driben’s devotion to B.U. sports is crystal clear, expressed by his attendance at about 5,000 university sporting events ever since his first one in 1958.
Every autumn Driben sits down with Mike Lynch, the director of athletics at B.U., and they review together Driben’s annual donation of between $6,000 and $8,000, earmarked for each of the university’s 24 teams. In addition Driben usually hosts some kind of social event; this spring it will be a pizza party for the band, dance team and cheerleaders.
“He’s like the grandfather of B.U. athletics: he wants the best for you, he loves you, but he’s not afraid to call you on the carpet,” Lynch said.
Last May the university dedicated the Elliot Driben Lobby in the Case Center building which is part of the sports arena. Lynch decided that naming the lobby in Driben’s honor was the best way to recognize Driben’s dedication and generosity. Through the glass doors of the lobby visitors enter Nickerson Field, the very place where Driben attended his first B.U. game, football. His program from that very game, which was against Syracuse in 1958, is in the lobby’s display case.
Approximately 500 B.U. athletes attended the lobby-dedication ceremony for Driben. After the formalities were over Driben received a warm round of applause.
“Every single athlete from the teams was there,” Parker the hockey coach said. “It was unbelievable. He walked in, and he was flabbergasted. I get tears just thinking about it.”
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