ANNAPOLIS – Retirement is not for Larry Goldberg.
At 82, the Greenbelt resident not only takes college courses, but volunteers at local blood drives and helps run a tutoring program at a Greenbelt recreation center.
“He has lived in the Greenbelt area since 1943. Everybody knows him,” said his daughter Janet Goldberg, who, with her father founded a math tutoring program for Greenbelt children.
In 1976, when he retired from the Navy, he joined the University of Maryland Golden ID program with his wife, Lilly, who died in 1997.
The program begun in 1988, is for students over 60 years old who work less than 20 hours a week.
Goldberg is one of 72 students enrolled at the university under the program that allows retired seniors to take up to three classes practically for free each semester. Students are not responsible for tuition, but must pay $175 in fees each semester.
Goldberg, originally from New York, graduated from City College of New York with a degree in engineering and took his first class at the University of Maryland in 1940.
In 1941, he joined the Navy as an architect, where he helped create a design, still used today, to make Navy ships almost unsinkable.
“When I saw that ship (U.S.S. Cole) on the news, I recognized that it would not sink because I helped to design ships just like that,” he said.
The Cole was attacked by terrorists in October 2000 and a huge hole was torn in the hull. The ship has since been repaired. Goldberg returned to the University of Maryland as a teaching assistant after the Navy and eventually worked his way up to become a professor. He taught math and tutored football players for 10 years, while taking classes in public affairs, astronomy and education. “I had to retire from that job when the students complained my exams were too hard and they weren’t getting passing grades,” said Goldberg.
But he couldn’t stay out of the classroom.
“He likes being around the students, and now he’s taking a lot of classes he wanted to take before, but couldn’t because of his engineering schedule when he was in school,” his daughter said. “He loves going to school, he wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
He rarely misses class and is almost always seated before the professor arrives. Goldberg often provides his professors with clippings and articles related to discussions in class that he culls from his reading between classes.
“I want to keep my mind alive. Being in the midst of younger people is very stimulating,” he said. “I’ve always been active and it just wouldn’t occur to me to sit at home and do nothing.”
Walking into class, it is hard to miss the student who is obviously older, and who often greets professors by their first name.
“At first it was a little different,” said senior journalism major Agnes Lee of her classmate. “I think because we are all in a similar age group we may tend to focus on similar issues, but because he is older he may bring up different issues that I never thought about before.”
Goldberg knows a number of the most influential figures in journalism from taking classes.
“It’s clear that he reads the whole paper and everything in it,” said Karen Dinsenbacher, graduate student and adjunct instructor at Maryland. “He brings a lot to the class as far as the history that he’s lived through and kind of puts things into perspective.”
Haynes Johnson, one of Goldberg’s instructors, is the Knight Foundation Chair at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland and teaches a class focused on the government and the press.
“I’m really, truly delighted he’s in class. He adds a dimension that’s useful,” said Johnson. “I love his independence of mind and he is willing to challenge you because he is so informed.”
Goldberg and his wife registered for the class almost every semester for years. Hodding Carter III, spokesman during Lyndon Johnson’s administration, taught them while he was the Knight Chair. Carter is now president of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in Miami.
“At the beginning some students were wondering why these old folks were allowed to talk, but then they realized that what they had to say was interesting,” said Carter. “They soon saw them as fellow participants, they were my model ID students.”
In 1997, Goldberg’s wife died. In remembrance he contributed $10,000 toward a scholarship for outstanding graduate students in the School of Public Affairs in her and Carter’s names.
Goldberg is preparing to make another donation to the journalism college in the name of his late wife and Haynes Johnson.
The Golden ID student may stick out in a crowd of young Maryland students, but he quickly shows that he is just as much a Terp as his younger counterparts by contributing to class discussions with his analysis of government, politics and sports.
“I still think that Cole Field House was a much more intimate place than the new Comcast Center,” Goldberg said.
Goldberg’s desire to teach has led him to another career.
In 1996, he co-founded the Greenbelt Moving Ahead Program for high school students with his daughter. He runs the tutoring program for elementary and high school students at the Springhill Lake Recreation Center owned by his daughter. Goldberg now tutors more than 15 students and also helps high school students prepare for the SAT.
“I felt the system was good for me, and I feel obligated to give back in tutoring,” he said.
Goldberg didn’t like the book he used while tutoring, saying it was too hard for them to understand, so he wrote his own, “Algebra II Notes.”
“I like helping students because they are younger than me and most things I have already experienced,” said Goldberg. “He is really sort of unabashedly a fan of this school and enjoys being there,” Carter said. “I think he found that there is no need for retirement as a way to retire your brain.”