Magazine Feature / People

Professor emeritus was ‘natural communicator’

Alvin Goldberg, a DU human communication studies professor emeritus, was a “ born intellectual” motivated by curiosity — for knowledge, books and for people in general.

When he was hospitalized recently, “He even categorized the hospital’s pain chart. He called it a ‘rhetoric of pain,’” Temple Mecah Rabbi Adam Morris recalled at Goldberg’s memorial service on June 2.

Goldberg, who colleagues dubbed DU’s “natural communicator,” died May 30. He was 77. He taught at DU for 36 years.

“Al was the opposite of a know-it-all, not to say he was a know-nothing because he wasn’t,” his son Benjamin Goldberg laughed.

“Even though he was a man of great learning … no matter how much knowledge and wisdom he had, it didn’t compare to how much he wanted to learn,” Benjamin Goldberg said.

Benjamin played a song titled “Language Behavior” at the service, named after one of Alvin Goldberg’s five books.

But perhaps Goldberg’s greatest contribution of all, Morris added, was in the way he lived his life. “He was open to love,” Morris says.

In the 1950s, a friend of Goldberg’s told him he met “a neat girl” that he would likely be interested in. So Judy from Madison, Wis., and Goldberg, who was living in Hawaii at the time, started corresponding through letters. “They met once and never left each other after that,” explained longtime friend Mayer Zald.

Judy and Alvin Goldberg were to celebrate their 54th wedding anniversary next week.

“I read some of those letters,” Morris said. “They were great, but it’s nothing compared to the kind of partners [they] became to each other. I’ll remember them as the couple that would not stop holding hands.”

Zald said Goldberg was probably the most stable guy he knew.

“If he ever got remotely out of line, all Judy would have to say was ‘Alvin!’ and that’s all he needed; he stopped,” Zald said.

But very rarely did Alvin Goldberg ever get out of line, or brag about his accomplishments.

“To have a profession like his without being a bullshitter is really hard,” Zald laughed.

Goldberg earned a bachelor’s degree from Wayne State University, a master’s degree from the University of Hawaii and a PhD from Northwestern University. At DU, he served in the human communications department as chair and twice as director of graduate studies.

“No one I know of in the University has been so generous with his time for students as [him],” Alton Barbour, human communications professor emeritus, wrote upon the announcement of Goldberg’s retirement in 1996. In addition to teaching in the core since its inception, “he has been instrumental in the formation and the development of the Pioneer Leadership Program.”

His success in communications seemed fairly obvious to those around him: “He made people feel significant when he talked to them,” Morris said. “He could be serious and thoughtful, but would turn around and be funny and carefree.”

In addition to his wife, Judy, Goldberg is survived by three sons — Benjamin, Jonathan and Adam — a daughter, Elissa, and five grandchildren.

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