Norma Wynick Goldman (1922-2011)

October 11, 2011 was a remarkably beautiful afternoon to celebrate a  remarkably beautiful soul at the Community Arts Auditorium at Wayne State University in Detroit. And I was honored to be there to speak, not only on behalf of Wayne State University and the Department of Classical and Modern Languages Literatures and Cultures, but also on behalf of the  American Classical League, the American Philological Association, the Classical Association of the Atlantic States, the Classical Association of the Middle West and South, the Classical Association of New England, the Classical Society of the American Academy in Rome,  the Michigan Classical Conference and the classics honor fraternity, Eta Sigma Phi: each of which asked me to present  their condolences.

Norma Wynick Goldman(1922-2011) was an ambassador for Wayne State University in general, and for the discipline of classical studies in particular.  She was associated with Wayne State in one way or another for more than six decades beginning in 1939 when she enrolled  as an undergraduate. For such a small person she had a very long reach --and truth be told her reach never seemed to exceed her grasp.  She was by discipline a Latinist with a broad range of interests in the classical world  both near and far. In 1957 to further interest in Greece and Rome among high school teachers and the community at large, she and Dr. Edith M.A. Kovach (1921-2009) founded the Detroit Classical Association. Norma’s work won her a Distinguished Alumni Award from Wayne State in 1985, an Ovatio from the Classical Association of the Middle West and South in 1988, and a Merita Award from the American Classical League in 2006.

Her books include:

1)Latin via Ovid,  coauthored with Dr. Jacob Nyenhius, professor of classics at Wayne from 1962-1975. Accompanying the textbook, she developed a workbook entitled Practice! Practice!   Now in its 3rd edition,  Latin Via Ovid is Wayne State University Press’s  best selling book of all time!

2) English Grammar for Students of Latin which she coauthored with Ladislas Szymanski in 1983.

3) The Janus View From the American Academy in Rome: Essays on the Janiculum, coauthored with Katherine Geffcken,  (American Academy in Rome, 2007).

 4)New Light from Ancient Cosa which was a set of articles continuing the pioneering work of Frank E. Brown (1908-1988) begun in 1947 at Cosa, to which Norma contributed her own essay (Peter Lang, 2001).

5)  Cosa, the Lamps, coauthored with Cleo Fitch,  which studied the oil lamps found at Cosa (University of Michigan Press, 1994).  

Norma had the  “hands on” approach of a craftsman. She  was in fact a potter and a seamstress. These talents led her to try recovering the formula for Roman concrete and to reconstructing the awning over the Colosseum- both of which were featured on television by BBC’s  Nova  in 1995.  Her keen interest in Roman styles of dress and Roman foot-wear resulted in more than 30 live fashion shows presented here and abroad,  and 2 essays published in The World of Roman Costume (University of Wisconsin Press. 1993). In 1993 she made an hour long video called “Let’s Wrap:1000 Years of Roman Costume” with Mary Yelda and George Booth. The video was distributed by the Teaching Materials and Resource Center of the American Classical League and it taught viewers how to dress like a Roman. As a recent audience member  in attendence at  a live presentation  said:“I really want to be 80 years old and still teaching Latin like the “Let’s wrap” lady, Norma Goldman. No joke, I watched two live hours of ancient Roman runway at my first ACL convention and that woman is a firecracker.” http://www.aclclassics.org/store/multimedia/dvd/let-s-wrap-ars-vestiendi.html (10/17/2011)

Norma also made a special study of Detroit’s own architect Albert Kahn (1869-1942). To us at Wayne State University he is known as the architect of the little Pantheon, the former Temple Beth El on Woodward Avenue, which today houses the University’s Bonstelle Theater.  Norma designed  a class about Kahn, his buildings,  and his work for Henry Ford, and she led  many “Albert Kahn” tours around the city. Few of us know that Albert Kahn himself evinced his deep interest in Graeco-Roman antiquity by membership in the American Philological Association  (1924-1942).

Norma was no armchair scholar. Truth be told she was  an unusually intrepid traveler. She crossed the Atlantic to work at the American Academy in Rome 31 years in a row. Her last trip was in the fall of 2010, and in the words of Dr. T. Corey Brennan, Andrew W. Mellon Professor, American Academy in Rome“there was not a walk, talk, bus trip, lecture, conference, or concert that she missed.”  It is no surprise that  Dr. Mel Ravitz,(1924-2010) Wayne State University Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Detroit City Council member (1962-72; 1982-97) called Norma “a spark plug.” As a member of the Council, Dr. Ravitz was delighted  when she,  Dr.  Michaela Sampson and I brought students from  Dr. Sampson’s Latin classes at Martin Luther King High School to perform an excerpt of their Latin play in the Council chambers during the early 1990s.

To many Norma’s most notable achievement was maintaining the perennial joy in learning that runs through every aspect of her work. Her books, her lectures, and her life were bathed in the warm glow of her exuberant enthusiasm. And those around her caught fire in the refractions of  her light. Norma was excitement personified. And now  the Kalends of this October—October 1, the Saturday she left us --- has revealed a beautiful symmetry in the circuit of Norma’s life as a scholar and as a spouse. For she recently  finished a work of scholarship that had interested her husband, Dr. Bernard M. Goldman (1922- 2006) from his days at the University of Michigan as a student of Dr. Clark Hopkins, (1895-1976) professor of classical art & archaeology. Their book, My Dura Europos The Letters of Susan M. Hopkins, 1927-1935, (which gives readers an inside view of  Dr. Clark’s excavations at this remote outpost of the Roman empire through the eyes of his wife Susan),  is due out from Wayne State University Press this November.  The completion of My Dura Europos represents both the intersection and the circumference of Norma’s and Bernard’s life together. It is also a final lesson  from this master teacher and scholar instructing us to look to the imago suae vitae to find her lasting legacy. We are all her best students now!Norma Wynick Goldman was buried on October 5, 2011 next to her husband of sixty-one years at the Mt. Sinai Cemetery in Phoenix, AZ. She is survived by their son Mark, daughter-in-law Carolyn, and  two beloved grandchildren, Liam and Grace,  of Phoenix, AZ.

Michele Valerie Ronnick

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