George Goodwin

AMHERST – George Goodwin died peacefully at the Fisher Home in Amherst on October 20th.

George was born June 29, 1921 in East Hartford, Connecticut, and educated in East Hartford public schools, with a post-graduate year at Deerfield Academy. After earning a BA in political science from Williams College in 1943, he served in the Air Force in the southwest Pacific from 1943-46.

Following the war, George pursued  graduate studies at Harvard (earning his PhD in 1955) and began a teaching career at UMass Amherst where he helped create a political science department. From the beginning he was deeply committed to undergraduate teaching and mentorship. One student group published in 1956 a humorous guidebook for their peers entitled "150 Words of Goodwinism," in homage to George's quirky use of language.  

In addition to being a "steady force in the University's initial rise to prominence" during its rapid expansion in the 1950s, George devoted time and skills to the town of Amherst, serving as a member of the Planning Board and Town Meeting, and chair of the committee that wrote the Town Manager Act.

He married Ellen Safford in 1951 after what he always referred to as  a "nine-year whirlwind courtship." Their Lincoln Avenue home became a hub of activity for their five children and the neighborhood.

The Goodwins left Amherst for Rhode Island in 1962. After three years as chair of the URI political science department, George was lured to Boston by the opportunity to be on the ground floor of something he found "rather exciting" as UMass sought to create "a liberal arts college with considerable diversity in the student body, with small classes, and a good deal of student-faculty contact." In Boston he found particularly stimulating the all–commuter student body and the "terribly demanding" work of building a University from scratch. Close proximity the Massachusetts State House offered many unique educational opportunities for students as well. He became known as the "Mr. Chips" of the UMass Boston community for his commitment to the well-being and success of his students.

As in Amherst, the Goodwin's large West Newton home was the site of many events and doings for neighborhood kids and for groups connected to Newton's Second Congregational Church.

As retirement approached, George was honored with the first UMass Boston Chancellor's Medal. In 1985 he was one of the rare UMass faculty to be granted an honorary degree by that institution.

George and Ellen returned to Amherst in 1986 where their famously warm welcome emanated from homes on Lincoln Ave., Strong St., and finally Applewood. George often quoted a neighbor who insisted you "kiss leisure goodbye" when you retire. Among the organizations he served in retirement were the Zoning Board of Appeals, Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity, Friends of the Jones Library, vestry of Grace Church, Master Gardeners Association of Western Massachusetts, and Five-College Learning-in-Retirement. He was awarded the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce Millicent Kaufman Distinguished Service Award in 2000.

He is survived by children Alice & Ross Goodwin-Brown of Amherst, Emily Goodwin of Leyden, Maida??????? Goodwin of Northfield, Putnam and Kathy Goodwin-Boyd of Florence, and William Goodwin of Weston, VT, as well as grandchildren Hannah and Vera Goodwin-Brown; Laura Fabricant; and Sam, Zachary, and Grace Goodwin-Boyd.

A service will be held on November 3 at 11 a.m. at Grace Episcopal Church in Amherst.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts can be sent to the Friends of the Jones Library or the George Goodwin, Jr. Scholarship Fund at UMass.

Published in Daily Hampshire Gazette on Oct. 25, 2018