Research & Centers


Otto and Helen Silha

Otto & Helen Silha

The late Otto A. Silha, born in Chicago, attended Central High School in St. Paul, MN, and received a B.A. degree (magna cum laude) from the University of Minnesota. He served as managing editor of the Minnesota Daily, was elected president of Delta Tau Delta, and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.

During his senior year at the University of Minnesota he "tried out" for a newsroom job at the Minneapolis Star, where he was hired in May 1940 as a copyeditor. Following four years of service in the Air Force, Mr. Silha was named promotion director of the Minneapolis Star and Tribune Company. Four years later, in 1952, he took on the added responsibilities of personnel director.

In 1954 he became the company's business manager. Within two years he was general manager and was elected vice president. In 1968 he became executive vice president and publisher of The Minneapolis Star and The Minneapolis Tribune. In 1973 he was elected president of the company. He served as chairman of the Board of Directors of the company, now renamed Cowles Media Company, from 1979 until his retirement from the Board in 1984. He then founded his own consulting firm, Silha Associates.

Active in a variety of professional and civic organizations and projects, Mr. Silha served as a member of the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota and is a trustee and senior vice president of the University of Minnesota Foundation. Mr. Silha chaired the National Experimental City project in Minnesota from 1965 to 1973. He was active in the Guthrie Theatre Foundation, and the Minneapolis Aquatennial Association, the Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts, and the Upper Midwest Council. He is a co-founder of the National Retiree Volunteer Center. He founded and chaired City Innovation, a national non-profit organization which mobilizes urban experts to volunteer to assist city organizations.

Mr. Silha played a leadership role in several major professional groups, including the American Newspaper Publishers Association, the Associated Press, the Newspaper Advertising Bureau, the International Newspaper Promotion Association, the Newspaper Readership Project, and the Newspaper Joint Postal Task force.

The late Helen Fitch Silha was born in Manhattan, Kansas, where she went to grade school. When her father, J.B. Fitch, became head of the dairy department at the University of Minnesota in 1935, she moved with the family to Minneapolis where she was graduated from John Marshall High School. After graduation from the University of Minnesota with a B.S. degree in education, she taught school for a year in Tracy, Minnesota. She and Otto Silha married in 1942, and she worked in the University Student Activities Bureau while he was in the Pacific in the Air Force.

Mrs. Silha lived a dynamic life of learning and discovery. In addition to managing the Silha household and rearing four children, she was active in Third Church of Christ, Scientist in Minneapolis, and chaired the Board of Directors of Minnesota Early Learning Design (MELD). Mrs. Silha also served on the board of Compas, a statewide arts organization, and on the boards of MacPhail Center for the Arts, and Friends of Opportunity Workshop.  Beginning in 1963, she organized classes at her home in Edina for the Continuing Education for Women Program at the University of Minnesota. More than 300 women attended 24 classes in topics ranging from Greek history to futurism. 

Helen Fitch Silha passed away peacefully October 21, 2017 of natural causes.  She was survived by three children: Stephen, of Vashon Island, Washington (Gordon Barnett); Alice Reimann, of Edina, Minnesota (John Reimann); Mark Silha of Bloomington, Minnesota. Another son, David, died in a Teton Mountain avalanche in 1974. She’s also survived by grandchildren Johnny Reimann (Kristin) of Orono; Sarah Reimann Likens (Jeff) of Wolfsburg, Germany; David Reimann of Miami, Florida; and four great-grandchildren.

View a slideshow of Helen Silha at Silha events over the years.