Walter Goldfrank
1940 - 2017
Walter Goldfrank
March 7, 1940 - July 11, 2017
Resident of Santa Cruz
Walter L. ("Wally") Goldfrank died peacefully and painlessly in his sleep on July 11 after a courageous battle with first bone marrow cancer and then leukemia. His spirit and sense of humor never left him until his dying breath. His devoted and loving wife Lois survives him, as do his two wonderful children, Naomi Talish of Scarsdale, NY, and Benjamin Goldfrank of Montclair, NJ. Other beloved survivors include Naomi's husband Joel Talish and their daughters Julia and Abigail, Ben's wife Ivette and their son Diego, Wally's loyal brother David of Falls Church, VA and his wife and five children, his sister- and brother-in-law Sally Howlett and Bill Segesta of Berkeley, CA, his dear cousins Dorothy Glass and Helen Stein of NY, NY, and his lifelong friends Sam Kaplan of Philadelphia, PA, and John Bell and Dorothy Stoneman of Belmont, MA.
Wally was born in New York City on March 7, 1940, attended Hunter College Elementary School through sixth grade, and then Edgemont High School in Scarsdale, where he was the valedictorian of its first graduating class in 1957. He received an AB with high honors from Harvard College in 1962, a Certificate in Sociology from the University of Madrid in 1963, and a Ph.D. in Sociology from Columbia University in 1973. By then he had been teaching at UC Santa Cruz since 1968, having been a founding fellow of Merrill College. While in graduate school in New York, he worked part time at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. He spent a week in Mississippi at the end of Freedom Summer in 1964 compiling a "docket" of unfinished cases left for the Inc. Fund to handle. In the summer of 1965, he and Lois took part in the Southern Teaching Program, offering classes at Philander Smith College in Little Rock, AR.
Wally's commitment to justice and peace was part of his life's work. He was active in the anti-war and civil rights movements and treasurer of the Santa Cruz chapter of the ACLU. He coined the phrase "Soledad Brothers" and was one of the founders of their defense committee. His survey research helped earn the accused a change of venue from Monterey County, and he soon became active in the National Jury Project, participating in legal cases involving radical defendants. He was an early supporter of the women's movement, and took part in the campus struggle to institute childcare for faculty and staff offspring.
As a participant in institutional innovation, Wally helped shape the Merrill College curriculum. He helped found the Latin American & Latino Studies program, fought for its transition to full-fledged department status, and aided in the creation of its recently begun PhD program, the first such in the United States. He also was instrumental in shaping the Sociology Department's graduate programs, serving significant terms as both Graduate Director and department Chair. From 1988 to 1996, he served as Provost of College Eight, now Rachel Carson College.
Teaching was Wally's first love, and hundreds of students passed through his courses on World Society (UCSC's was among the first sociology departments in the country to require such a course), on Sociological Theory, Development and Underdevelopment, Revolution, and even Sociology of Sports. He mentored numerous doctoral students and reluctantly gave up the last few remaining just weeks before his death.
Wally was an amazing husband, making Lois laugh every day of their 52-year marriage. He was an equal partner in raising their children, leading Naomi's elementary school class to a blue ribbon for their entry in the Santa Cruz County Fair's "miscellaneous baked goods" category, thereby introducing bagels to the region, and coaching Benjy's Little League team to victory in the Championship. When empty-nested, Wally and Lois developed an abiding interest in birding, becoming life members of the Santa Cruz Bird Club. At the time of his death, he had seen almost 350 species in Santa Cruz County, and through their many trips abroad to over 50 countries, about 7300 species worldwide.
Wally was a wily lefty on the tennis court, and will be missed by several dear long-time partners. He became a first-rate bridge player and Bronze Life Master, forming friendships with multiple players at the Santa Cruz Bridge Club. He was a loyal fan of the Golden State Warriors, the Oakland Raiders, and the LA Dodgers, this last attachment formed in 1947 when the then-Brooklyn Dodgers called up Jackie Robinson, his childhood hero. His passion for sports was passed on to his adoring grandkids, who rooted for all of Wally's teams despite living on the opposite coast.
He often said he was one of the luckiest people alive until the bad luck of cancer robbed him of more.
A private memorial service will be held. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Wally's name to the American Civil Liberties Union ( or the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County (

View the online memorial for Walter Goldfrank
Published by Santa Cruz Sentinel from Jul. 14 to Jul. 16, 2017.
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27 Entries
Still thinking of you and the friendship we had at Edgemont High School. What a valued person you were. Hope the family is well. As Always
Jill Libman
July 8, 2021
Wally, you are still in my thoughts. and always will be remembered. Rest in peace. Jill Libman. NYC.
Jill Libman
July 8, 2019
Wally was the reason I came to study in the doctoral program at UC Santa Cruz where he was a consistent source of inspiration and support the seven years I was there. He was "the real deal" genuine to the core and offered such a generosity of spirit, it makes me smile to think about him. I am saddened to hear of his passing - such a loss!
Sandra Meucci
January 26, 2018
I just received this as we are now in VT. Wally greatly added to my joy during my 35 years at UCSC. He will be dearly missed and contributed greatly to the magic of the campus and Santa Cruz community.
Bob Hansen
November 5, 2017
Wally was a joy to know. He always had a twinkle in his eye, and let me know with a glance that he wanted to connect, that he cared. He was a warm, loving and compassionate man and he touched my life. He was committed to making the world a better place for all and he inspired me.

My love to family and loved ones.
Ray Charland
October 29, 2017
I'm very sorry to having missed this sad news; I was on sabbatical and off the grid. Wally to me was a mentor's mentor: always readily available when I needed him; ever prepared to give sound advice; encouraging when I needed to be free in my fieldwork; highly supportive when I faced a deadline for my dissertation. When I teach on occasion these days, I think of Wally when I stand in front of the class and interact with my students, and try to emulate him. I was very lucky to know him and have the chance to work with him. Plus, for Wally, solidarity was forever; we stayed in touch throughout the years. I will miss him. My sincerest condolences to Lois and the (grown) kids, whom I have known only as little tykes. Joost
Joost Hiltermann
September 27, 2017
He encouraged me to apply to the UCSC graduate program in sociology. It changed my life. R.I.P. Professor Goldfrank. My condolences to the family.
Richard Gendron
September 21, 2017
My deepest sympathies to Wally Frank's family. I was saddened to learn about his passing, and I will miss him a great deal. He was an active member of the UC Santa Cruz faculty, and he worked hard to advance social justice and civil rights both on and off campus. He will not be forgotten.

Sheldon Kamieniecki, Dean Emeritus, Social Sciences
Sheldon Kamieniecki
September 19, 2017
Well, Lois, I finally got the right obit page. It was good to run into you while birding Thursday morning. My sincere sympathy to you and your family. You were right, the obit was beautifully written. We will all miss Wally. I will hold you close in thought and prayer. Sarah Howell
Sarah Howell
September 9, 2017
My sincerest condolences to Wally's family. He was an important teacher for me at UCSC.
Mary Gadsby
August 30, 2017
I met Wally my first day of Merrill College 1968. I was in the Aquarius affinity group with Lois ! I had the amazing experience of helping Lois and Wally welcome Naomi home from the hospital. Wally taught me how to sweep the kitchen floor ! His intellect, wit and wonderful smile are a treasure to me.
My loving support to all the family as you learn to live with all the memories that Wally created with you.
Nancy Donald
August 26, 2017
In the fall of 1968, when Merrill first opened its doors, Wally was living in B dorm. He was one of the friendliest and most egalitarian faculty members I ever met. He genuinely cared about the students and praised their work when praise was due. Even his eccentricities were delightful (e.g., a new car painted an astoundingly drab olive green). Chancellor McHenry despised Wally's politics and did not share Wally's love of the Cuban Revolution and Fidel Castro, and Wally was convinced that he was eager for an excuse to fire him. But Wally never gave him any and instead remained on the faculty for the next 40 years.
The Goldfranks moved off campus in 1969, after Benjy was born, and I did not see Wally too often after that, but he remains one of my "Top 6" favorite UCSC teachers, along with Noel King, Ed Landesman, Jim Chrislock, William Hitchcock, and Karl Lamb.
Robert Sprague
August 25, 2017
I met him only once; great mentor, scholar and a noble person. I and my family feel deep sorrow for his departure!
Samee Lashari
August 13, 2017
Still Thinking of Wally and the family .
Know that he is missed by all.
May he live in our thoughts eternally.
Jill Libman
Reunion Chair
On behalf of the
Edgemont High School
1st graduating class.
Jill Libman
August 12, 2017
To Lois and the family, we are so sorry for your loss. Wally was a great and caring guy and a good friend. Bilge and I were so happy to spend time with Wally, Lois, and Sally in Istanbul on their way to birding in Ethiopia. We didn't see him often but we'll miss him frequently. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h'anam. Denis.
Denis O'Hearn
August 11, 2017
One of the finest gentleman I have ever met .
Wally and I grew up together. We both graduated from the Edgemont High School in Scarsdale, New York . The class always welcomed him at all the high school reunions I chaired as we looked forward to his wit and brilliant mind. I'll never forget the memories we shared and the talks we had. My deep condolences to his wife Lois and his entire family. May he rest in peace.
His memory will never be forgotten
Jill Libman
July 26, 2017
Wally was a great mentor, and a generous colleague. He will be missed by many. condolences a.
tom hall
tom hall
July 21, 2017
Dear Lois,

I remember both of you fondly! Early childhood education and both of your loving concern for all of us in Santa Cruz. Know that you are loved and we will honor Wally with a contribution to the Land Trust.

With love and admiration.

John and Patty Brissenden
July 20, 2017
Sitting in a junior highschool class with Wally you always knew he was destined for inspiring things. Glad to have had him
as friend back then.
Dick Keith
July 17, 2017
My dear Lois, I am so sorry for your loss. Wally was always so kind, funny, and quick to laugh - all that on top of his many, many accomplishments. From dressing your Santa Cruz babies in tie dye to flitting about the globe in pursuit of rare birds, you two will always be a part of Santa Cruz history. Please know that I am thinking of you and may you find some peace in this difficult time.
Mary Anne Robb
July 17, 2017
Mr. Goldfrank made a huge difference during his time on the planet and helped to make it a better place!
July 17, 2017
Like Dennis, I knew Wally (mostly) from our time together (approaching 35 years) on the tennis courts. And what good times we had! Wally was smart, funny, engaging, and a wonderful player with an imaginative game. I'll miss him very much.
Jim Burns
July 16, 2017
My deepest condolences to the family . I had the pleasure of meeting Wally and his wife as a patient. God bless.
July 16, 2017
May the Goldfrank family find peace during this difficult time.
July 16, 2017
Wally was a valued colleague who brought special richness into the lives of Santa Cruz Opera Society (SCOSI) members by introducing us to his incomparable mother, Sylvia. His affable nature and ready wit made any encounter with him a pleasurable experience. May many fond memories bring a measure of comfort to his family and friends. We are greatly saddened by his loss.
Miriam Ellis
July 15, 2017
I will forever fondly remember and deeply miss my longtime friend and tennis partner.
Den Artman
July 14, 2017
May his name be a blessing.
Diane Gifford-Gonzalez
July 13, 2017
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