Chemistry emeritus professor Bernie Silverman passes away
Author: Currently
Posted: September 19, 2013

In Memoriam: Professor Morris Bernard Silverman, 1924-2013

Morris Bernard "Bernie’" Silverman, associate professor emeritus of chemistry, died July 16 in Portland.

Dr. Silverman joined the Portland State College Chemistry Department in 1959. He was a petroleum chemist for Standard Oil and had earned his Ph.D. and master's degree at University of Washington.

Dr. Silverman enthusiastically thrust himself into the life of the fledgling Park Blocks college at a time when it provided minimal facilities for classes with outsized enrollments. Students flocked to his courses and many became lifelong friends. He encouraged chemistry students to include literature, art and music in their academic pursuits.

When NBC aired the College Bowl quiz program on national television in the early 1960s, Dr. Silverman joined seven faculty colleagues who coached our student team that emerged victorious on five televised programs beginning January 31, 1965. Portland State suddenly gained national recognition and Smith Memorial Center was renamed to honor a Bowl contestant. Undeniably, this historic event is a legacy from Dr. Silverman's belief that a collegiate education must embrace several branches of knowledge.

Dr. Silverman capably fulfilled various academic governance assignments. In 1968 he chaired a special committee that examined the lingering, complex student credit issues arising from the merging of instruction offered separately by Portland State and the Division of Continuing Education. He partnered with art faculty members to develop classes embracing science disciplines. These contributions and other institutional developments generated a high level of respect from campus colleagues. Those who were fortunate enough to know and work with Dr. Silverman remember him for his cooperative nature, gentility, kindness and wry sense of humor. This institution has been well served by Dr. Silverman and owes him a lasting debt of gratitude.

Dr. Silverman pursued a wide range of intellectual and hobby interests. He was and avid reader and developed exceptional artistic talents in photography and painting. He played violin, mandolin, guitar and harmonica; he smoked foods and made wine. With his family he took advantage of outdoor recreational opportunities.

Dr. Silverman is survived by his wife, Wanda, and daughters Karen and Shari. A memorial concert and gathering of friends was held in his honor on September 7, 2013. An online guest book is accessible at; an extensive obituary appeared in the Oregonian of September 8, 2013. Contributions in Dr. Silverman's honor may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association Oregon Chapter.

Written by Victor C. Dahl, Emeritus Professor of History, September 20, 2013.