Dr. Barbara Goldberg

  • "Miss you Mom."
    - Angus
  • "We were saddened to hear of Barbara's passing. I was..."
    - Sandra Borbridge
  • "I am truly saddened by Barbara's passing. Barbara's was..."
    - Charles Hubbard

Dr. Barbara Sproston Goldberg, 73, passed away in her sleep of a Thursday while at home, on May 9, 2013. A true Scot who held fast to her British Citizenship throughout her life, she was born on January 5, 1940 in Arbroath, Scotland to the late Horace John Sproston and Louisa Ritchie. She spent the next year in the city of Hull at the height of the Blitz, during which time she survived four massive air raids and many more, smaller attacks that would ultimately render the port the most severely damaged British city of the Second World War. With the exception of this ordeal, she spent the remainder of her youth in the land of her birth. While Dr. Goldberg's early years instilled an enduring love for her homeland, her experiences in Scotland's draconian post-war educational system also left her determined to provide future generations of children with more effective and compassionate schooling than she had known while growing up.

Subsequently, she earned an education diploma from Moray House College, Edinburgh, in 1963, as well as the more specialized Infant Mistress and Nursery School Certification (awarded to her with distinction), and an Honors Certification from the National Froebal Association of Teachers. Immediately after obtaining her primary teaching credentials, Dr. Goldberg began studies at the London School of Economics, during which time she met her future husband, Robert Michael Goldberg, who was also studying there. On completion of her program of studies at LSE, she moved to the United States and was accepted to Harvard University's Graduate School of Education. She earned a master's degree at Harvard before graduating from the University as a Doctor of Education in 1978.

Dr. Goldberg moved with her family to Alaska in 1968, and for the next twenty years was a champion for childhood and higher education in the Last Frontier, as well as a dedicated community activist. She was one of three mothers who spearheaded the effort to establish Chugach Optional Elementary School, the first alternative public school in Anchorage. As the only one of the trio whose professional training was in education, she was responsible for much of the ideology behind Chugach, which was based in large measure on the British "flexible day" model of education that she had studied earlier. The school, which opened its doors in September 1973, thrives to this very day. Dr. Goldberg's commitment to Chugach continued beyond her critical role in the school's foundation, as she served on the Parent Steering Committee as a general member, as Vice-President, and twice as President. Moreover, all three of her children attended Chugach throughout their elementary school years: Two grew up to be teachers, and the third is an artist.

Beyond her commitment to the children of Anchorage, Dr. Goldberg was involved in numerous civic activities beneficial to the people of Alaska. On arrival in the state, she coordinated program sites and teaching personnel for Headstart programs in rural areas. Two years later, she established the Center for Children and Parents (CCP) in association with Alaska Methodist University, a local church, and the Alaska Children's Services, a private agency. CCP provided childcare, family counseling and training for Headstart and other teaching programs, and subsequently went on to become the largest agency of its kind in Alaska. Dr. Goldberg twice served with the Anchorage School District, and played a critical role in the eventual introduction of the Paideia Seminar Program to several of the city's public schools. She was also long-standing member of the Anchorage Sister Cities Commission for which work she received the 1987 Mayor's Award. Dr. Goldberg also volunteered as a group counselor for the Anchorage Vietnam Veteran's Association.

Dr. Goldberg was a fixture of the academic community during her years in Alaska. Between 1982 and 1992 she was a professor at Alaska Pacific University (APU) where she twice served as President of the Faculty, and taught and developed numerous classes relating to psychology, education, and human resources. At one point, her individual course load accounted for fifteen percent of the total credit-hour production by the full-time faculty at APU. She was elected by the students of APU as the outstanding faculty member of the year three years in a row, and was awarded APU's University Merit Award for Teaching on two occasions by her peers on the faculty. In consequence of her commitment to education, Dr. Goldberg was the recipient of various other academic and civic honors, including the inaugural British Petroleum and YWCA Alaskan Women of Achievement Award in 1990, and the 1987 Mayor's Award for her work on the Sister Cities Commission.

Not withstanding her myriad contributions to teaching at APU, Dr. Goldberg was especially proud of her work advising the students there. When APU established an athletics program in 1986, student athletes were recruited from across the United States, and many of them encountered serious academic challenges as well as personal difficulties making the adjustment to collegiate life. At the request of the of the Athletic Director, Dr. Goldberg accepted the role of Special Academic Advisor to all of the enrolled athletes, coordinating their school work with other professors, monitoring academic schedules with the Registrar, and meeting regularly with the athletes and their coaches. Her efforts on behalf of APU's student-athletes were so successful that in 1989 she was one of 100 educators awarded the National Association of Higher Education's "Stand and Deliver" Award for work in empowering disadvantaged students.

Her advocacy on behalf of marginalized students was characteristic of Dr. Goldberg's compassion and commitment to social justice.

In 1992, Dr. Goldberg moved with her family to Warrenton, Virginia. While she continued to teach occasionally at the university level at both Davis and Elkins College and Shenandoah University, she effectively retired from academic life in the late 1990s in order to focus on her family -particularly her grandchildren- who have all benefited from her love and guidance. In her final years, she had worked as a counselor for the Blue Ridge Counseling Group in Warrenton, and enjoyed volunteering at the Graffiti House, a historic Civil War building outside of Culpeper.

All her life, she was fond of animals, especially terriers, retrievers, and mongrels. She wrote once that if she possessed the land for them, she would own as many as ten dogs. This goal eluded her, but she did manage as many as nine, all of them strays or rescues, with several cats in the mix for good measure. Barbara Goldberg was an avid gardener and a consummate knitter, skills that she learned in childhood. She especially liked the seaside. A prolific amateur writer, she would often laugh about her first job out of high school, working for D.C. Thomson's romance comic Romeo Magazine. Apart from her participation in various Virginia writers' groups, she maintained correspondences with friends and family in many lands throughout her accomplished life. A poet from youth, a volume of her early work was published in 1998. She also wrote across a broad range of prose from nonfiction to fiction. Completed works and selections from Dr. Goldberg's papers will be published posthumously. Amongst her personal collections, a photograph was found of her standing alongside a student at an APU graduation ceremony. Across the back of the picture the graduate had later inscribed: "Dear Dr. Goldberg, I reached this day because of you." In as much as her life benefited many, and for as long as children continue to learn at Chugach Optional Elementary School, there will be those among us who share this gratitude for the life of Barbara Goldberg.

She is survived by her husband of forty-seven years, Robert Goldberg; three children, Esther Harrison (Anthony J.) of Hohenfels, Germany, Angus Goldberg (Lorraine) of Flint Hill, Virginia, and Duncan Goldberg of Amissville, Virginia; brother, John Sproston of Alexandria, Virginia; four grandchildren, Preston Arthur Harrison, Dorothy Laura Grace Harrison, Reuben James Carkeek Harrison, and Evelyn Beatrice Goldberg; cousins, Marjorie and George Kidd of Edmonton, Alberta, Alan and Marion Ritchie of Toronto, Ontario, and Isobel Peterson, of Arbroath, Angus, and sister-in-law, Barbara Cramer of Chicago, Illinois.

Celebrations of Barbara's life will be held in the United States and Scotland in the months to come.

Memorial contributions may be made in her name to Operation Smile, Operation Smile, 6435 Tidewater Drive Norfolk, VA 23509. Online condolences at www.moserfuneralhome.com.

Published in Anchorage Daily News from Sept. 1 to Sept. 2, 2013
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