Monday, January 19, 2009

The Loss of a Mentor and Great Man of God

Last week, in the midst of my own great joy, I also grieved the loss of someone very special. My New Testament professor, Dr. Daniel Goodman, who taught at my college, Palm Beach Atlantic College, died unexpectedly last week. He was the definition of a great man, and was an inspiration to many. He taught with passion, creativity, and fullness of life, and every student in his class was drawn into his thrilling world. I spent a great deal of time with Dr. Goodman during my days as a Biblical Studies major at PBA, and even considered continuing my studies in New Testament while at Duke. He was not only a teacher, but a friend, and I even was privileged to get to know his wife and kids, as he graciously invited us into his life. During my college years, I had many questions and doubts about the places where my faith and intellect intersected, and Dr. Goodman was someone who helped shine a light towards the True and Holy God.

Last week, as I was still in the hospital, I laid in my bed very early one morning thinking about this great loss. I recalled a New Testament class where we were discussing miracles. In the world of NT scholarship and studies, there are some who do not believe in miracles or think that they do not happen today in our time. When asked his opinion, Dr. Goodman replied that he believed miracles happened today because he experienced them for himself. He shared that when his first son was born, he witnessed a miracle of God that day, and he knew God was alive in his midst. I am thankful for the remembrance of that class, as I too have experienced a God who is alive and in our midst through the miracle of Kieren. Dr. Goodman will always be one of the most influential people I have ever known, and my path will forever be marked by his teaching and friendship. Many share the same sentiment, and I pray we can make him proud as we continue forward living lives that witness the miraculous, powerful, passionate God that we serve.


Dr. Daniel Goodman

Dr. Goodman's Obituary

A sermon of remembrance, from my great friend and fellow PBA student, Alan Sherouse
My Teacher, My Peer: Remembering Dr. Goodman
15 January 2009
Written by Alan Sherouse

Hemingway once advised those of us grasping for words, “simply write the truest sentence you know.” So many things are true of Danny but, I suppose, I’m here because I can say, truly, that he was the best teacher I’ve ever had.

But that may be too sweeping a statement. He wouldn’t want hyperbole today. “Don’t just throw that kind of jargon around, Sherouse,” I can hear him say. So let me fill it in.

To have been a student of Dr. Goodman/Danny/The Kid was a rare and distinct gift. Distinct, for one, because our teacher was so blessedly idiosyncratic. Yes, even quirky…

Lunch with Goodman meant the same ham sandwich in a brown bag, day after day. If he was feeling particularly loose, he’d join us in the PBA “Caf.” But not without bringing his own plastic cutlery along. And let’s not even talk about the episode when I dared to eat from his plate!

He cut me down that day with his unmatched wit. The very same wit that crafted student nicknames like “The Colonel,” “The Dean,” and “The Brothers Cook.” The quick tongue made him a legend of banter and trash-talk, as you know if you ever engaged him in fantasy baseball, or table tennis, or foosball at the Goodman home. “You’ve got nothing, Sherouse. You’re a one-trick pony.E2 And if he’d fall behind by a goal or two, he’d say, “Look out…I’m about to reach into my move bag.”

But his tongue had some self-imposed limits. Despite his appreciation of the irreverent, you would never hear him curse (with the exception of the “shucking” episode). No, he respected his mother too much for foul language, he said, so he preferred to let Gary Poe do his cursing for him.

But of all his particular traits, the most rare may have been his presence in the classroom: his scribbling, his enthusiasm, his graceful dips to emphasize a point. I’ve seen a lot of school since my last Goodman lecture in Okeechobee Hall and, I promise you, no one can match his ability in the classroom.

He was a transformative teacher. And, at PBA, he was so in a particular time and place where curiosity and disruption were often unwelcome.

Nonetheless, our questions found permission in the lecture hall and in his office. Our assumptions found critique. The work was urgent and vital. And the deepest hopes we carried for ourselves always found a match in his enduring belief in us.

He loved his students. And he let us know it, as he collapsed the requisite professorial distance. He and Barbara wanted us to know them, to know Daniel and Dylan, and to see them all as friends.

So the man who scribbled on my papers with fountains of red, was also the man that rapped on the bathroom door one morning when Jenny and I stayed at the Goodman home in Boiling Springs. He wanted to know if I wanted peanut butter on my morning bagel.

When I’d see him at professional conferences, this man described by his colleagues as a rising star in the field of New Testament Studies was quick to turn dinner conversation to updates on Barbara, Daniel, and Dylan.

Dr. Goodman, the master of the lecture hall, was also Danny, Dad, and “Coach Dan.”

The man whose teaching and mentoring touched my life, was also the one whose hands gripped my shoulders as he led my ordination prayer, and whose lips kissed our cheeks as he blessed Jenny and me at our wedding.

It was not his accomplishments, his charisma, or his intellect, but the things he showed me as my friend that made him, in so many ways, the man I want to be.

“A good teacher finds his reward in the peers he has created.” I heard Dr. Goodman express this several times. And that’s a great sum of his legacy: an assembly of peers. We who know something of what he knew. We who see the world differently because of him. We embrace complexity and curiosity. We dialogue with those different than us. We live in this world in such a way as to give evidence that a Messiah has visited.

Some of us are ministers and teachers, like him. Others among us are musicians, real estate agents, retail managers, and really great moms and dads. In the end, being his peer is not about what we's about who we are because of him.

And I suppose I stand today as some sort of representative. But I’m not enough. Not enough to represent those gathered here, or the hundreds that have joined online tribute groups in the last two days.

Instead of me, it could be Erin telling you how he inspired her to continue in graduate school, or John expressing how a biblical scholar influenced his song-writing, or Lydia and Chris telling you what it meant to watch him tenderly hold their baby boy.

So, it’s not enough for me to stand. We peers should stand together. I want to invite you today, if you called him “teacher,” will you stand?

To be a student - a peer - of Dan Goodman, is a rare, distinct, transformative gift. He was the best teacher I’ve ever had. But he was more. He was one of the best human beings I have ever known. And in all my life, few things will ever be so true.

Thanks be to God for the life and enduring influence of our teacher. Amen.

1 comment:

apsherouse said...

Beautiful, Sarah. Truly. Most profound story I've read. I posted it to our facebook remembrance group.