“People who deride ivory-tower intellectuals never met Harvey Goldberg. The UW-Madison history professor was an intellectual, all right — of the most brilliant sort. But he was as far from the ivory tower as Madison is from Paris, his second home.
“Goldberg’s specialty was French social history. From it he drew mesmerizing lessons about courage and commitment, risk and responsibility, and the role of individuals in forging social change. His lectures, delivered in a voice that seemed to resonate from the depths of his soul, were a transforming experience for generations of students, stirring their minds and consciences.
“Great teachers are rare. Such passionate intellects are rarer still. Goldberg’s legacy of engagement in life outlives him.”
-reprinted with permission from The Milwaukee Journal, May 20, 1988.
Harvey Goldberg’s Career at the UW
Harvey Goldberg began his career at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in the early 1940s, when he enrolled as an undergraduate. He stayed on afterwards to pursue a Ph.D. in French history. He began his teaching career at Oberlin College and Ohio State University, but he returned to Madison in 1963. Harvey Goldberg quickly outgrew the moderately sized lecture hall he had been assigned and moved to a massive auditorium in the Agriculture Building. So great was his popularity, students snuck into his lectures to audit them for no credit. After listening with rapt attention to lectures that often went well over their allotted time, Harvey Goldberg’s audience ended each session with a round of applause.
Harvey Goldberg’s lectures were meticulously crafted performances. While they were based on the kind of extensive research many scholars reserve for their published work, Professor Goldberg delivered them with an actor’s sense of timing and emphasis. For all the drama of his performances, we should not overlook the message Professor Goldberg offered in these lectures. Above all, Harvey Goldberg wanted to instill in his students an awareness of historical struggles of the weakest for justice and for autonomy. He inspired his students to engage actively in the social issues of the day.