School 12

Otto Lerbinger

September 17, 2023

Otto Lerbinger Obituary

Otto Lerbinger of Newton Highlands died peacefully on September 17th at age 98, with his two daughters by his side.

Born in Dingolfing, Germany, Otto, along with his mother and brother, emigrated to the U.S. when he was five years old to join his father in Brooklyn, N.Y. Despite not knowing a word of English when he arrived, he excelled in school, skipping two grades before graduating at age 16 from a technical High School. Thereafter, he began working at the Potdevin Machine Company while also taking evening classes at NYU. Otto quickly demonstrated his managerial and organizational skills at Potdevin by recommending a revision of accounting practices to his new bosses.

After turning 18, Otto was drafted and assigned to the Army Corps of Engineers, receiving training at Boston University. In 1944, his unit deployed to Europe and he fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Despite multiple close calls, Otto survived the war unscathed and served in the occupying forces in Berlin. At the urging of his commanding officers, Otto began his teaching career, offering a weekly seminar on topics of his choosing to his fellow soldiers.

After returning to the states, Otto resumed his studies, graduating with a B.A. from Brooklyn College, a M.S. from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While completing his dissertation he had the great fortune to meet his wife-to-be, Beth, while painting her room with a friend. They married in 1952 three months after meeting, beginning a loving partnership that lasted until her death, almost 68 years later. While living in Cambridge, their daughters Jan and Susan were born and raised, until they moved to Newton Highlands in 1967.

Dr. Lerbinger joined the Boston University faculty in the 1950’s where he applied the rigor of his academic background in economics to the field of public relations in the College of Communication. There, he was a trailblazer, doing pioneering research at the intersection of business, communications and psychology. He authored nine books including several versions of The Crisis Manager. In addition to his academic pursuits, he edited the weekly PR Reporter newsletter for more than 25 years and was a consultant to commercial clients. He gave seminars internationally, in Australia, Bahrain, Chile and China. Otto loved teaching and worked tirelessly throughout his 50 years on the BU faculty. He frequently filled gaps in the existing curriculum by designing new courses, which often fueled ideas for a new book. Otto was a beloved professor who both mentored and challenged his students, many who became lifelong colleagues and friends. After becoming Professor Emeritus at age 80, Otto contemplated other pursuits, but quickly returned to teaching and writing (at BU, the BU London summer program, and Lasell University), publishing his last book at age 93.

Both in and outside the classroom, Otto was a kind soul who always had a twinkle in his eyes; he radiated a sense of adventure, intense curiosity, and an optimistic, pragmatic, can-do outlook. His generous spirit, coupled with Beth’s warm, caring nature, fostered many devoted friends, neighbors and colleagues throughout their long lives together.

He loved and was beloved by his family. He was predeceased by his wife Beth in 2020. He is survived by his daughters Jan Lerbinger (Kurt Roth) and Susan (and Foster) Gesten, and his grandchildren Clara Roth and Owen Kobrel, and step-grandson, Noah Finlayson-Gesten. We hold Otto in our hearts and will miss him dearly.

A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, October 28, 2023 at 11 am at BU’s Marsh Chapel located at 735 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston. Free parking (with barcode) is available at BU’s J: CAS Lot at 240 Bay State Rd.  A reception with light refreshments will follow at The Castle. All are welcome.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Otto’s memory may be made to Boston University’s College of Communication Scholarship Fund.

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Memorial Service
October 28, 2023

11:00 AM
BU’s Marsh Chapel
735 Comminwealth Ave
Boston, MA 02215


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