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In Memoriam Laura Goldin

I was saddened to hear the news that my undergraduate thesis advisor, Laura Goldin, passed away late last week. Much of what I have been able to accomplish in my career in conservation—its catalyst—can be attributed to her. She was a tireless advocate for her students and a trailblazer, being part of the first class of women to graduate from Yale.

I remember being a teenager uncertain of my place in the world. It was that first meeting with her at the Gerstenzang Science Library where I felt I may have a home academically at Brandeis. During my time in school she managed to nurture my interests and gave me pointers when she could in spite of the demands that she had as an attorney, chair professor, and undergraduate advising head.

After graduation, I would make the trip back to campus and see Laura Goldin. She gave me this advice that I have remembered many years since I had first returned to campus as an alumnus, “Don’t be concerned about being unsung because it is the work that matters.” The last few times we spoke I shared with her my desire to give back to Brandeis:

Dear Phil,

I was so pleased to see your generous offer to act as mentor for environmental studies students. How very like you, and what a wonderful asset you can be for the students and the department!

I expected to remain much longer in ENVS but serious health problems made that impossible. Please know that I am thrilled to learn how you have so beautifully pursued your career dream so faithfully!

I’m always very very happy to learn more about how you are doing, and to hear from you. I have remained in touch with a number of special students like you.

My best wishes always,


Laura Goldin

Messages like these from someone I admire really do make a difference when you’re facing enormous odds like many of us do in the conservation field to save endangered species in light of what is a rapid descent into a sixth mass extinction. However, Laura Goldin reminded me that it’s what you can do in your circumstances and not letting cynicism get to you that matters.

I will miss her terribly and countless others who have been touched by her compassion, warmth, and intellect will as well.

Her funeral will be held virtually on Thursday, February 9th at 11 AM Eastern Time here.

Class presentation
General Conner told General Eisenhower a saying that reflects what Laura Goldin accomplished, “Always take your job seriously, never yourself.”
Summer at Cape Cod


Rawda says:

Thank you for writing this, Phil. What a beautiful tribute, and what a blessing you are. I can see Professor Goldin’s joy, compassion, and brilliance through you.

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