Tucked away on the north side of the fourth floor of the Social and Behavioral Sciences building at Stony Brook University, a man with gray hair pointing to the ceiling sets down his cane, takes a seat at his desk and checks his smartphone. Two walls in the room, which is the size of a medium college dorm room, are lined with shelves of books, his desk cluttered with papers.
Norm Goodman, Ph.D., has been teaching sociology at Stony Brook since 1964 and has served on the University Senate, a coalition of faculty committees that advise campus administration. He is now a distinguished teaching professor and a State University of New York distinguished service professor, as well as a husband, a father of three and a grandfather of two.
But before all that, as a kid growing up in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Goodman just wanted to coach basketball and baseball.
“And my father said to me ‘That’s not a job for an adult…Look for something else,’” Goodman said.
Then, Goodman told his father that he wanted to follow in his footsteps and became a politician. Again, his dad said no—this time because the younger Goodman was too honest.
So, he started performing community service. That is where he realized that he wanted to work with people.
“I thought about it and I could probably do more good not just working in direct service with people, but to also understand the context they were living,”
He ended up at Brooklyn College, studying sociology in the 50s.
There, he met his future wife, Marilyn. They met through Goodman’s ex-girlfriend.
“I saw him with her so I went over to hello and she introduced me and she said ‘this is Norm Goodman,’” Marilyn said. “He said, ‘My friends call me Goodie.’ And my line that I’ve told a lot of people was that I wanted to be his friend so I called him Goodie. And I still call him that.”
After Goodman and her friend broke up, he and Marilyn both went to a Brooklyn College Yeshiva basketball game. He invited her out to dinner afterwards and they went back to his fraternity house to go dancing.
The two wed on Dec. 26, 1954. In 1963, he got his Ph.D. in sociology at New York University. He started teaching as an assistant professor at Stony Brook the next year. His two main classes were social psychology, which was his specialty, and intimate relations.
“It was a small little mud hole when it first started,” Goodman said of the university back when he first stepped foot onto Stony Brook’s Suffolk County campus.
The university used to focus on training teachers and it was situated in Oyster Bay. It moved to its current location a few years before Goodman arrived to teach.
During Goodman’s second year at Stony Brook, one of his friends, a chemist by the name of Ted Goldfarb, asked him for a favor.
Goldfarb would be going on leave for a little while and needed someone to cover his spot in the University Senate.
Since then, Goodman has served twice as president and once as vice president of the University Senate, once as president of the College of Arts and Sciences and he has co-chaired committees ranging from CAPRA, which deals with finances, to Student Life.
In 1990, he was asked to join a task force with the SUNY University Senate on what was called “distance learning.” Now it is known as “online education.”
There he met future SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor Marvin LaHood from Buffalo State College. They have been friends ever since, gossiping on the phone about once a month. Whenever Goodman is in LaHood’s neck of the woods, Goodman arranges all the dinners and theater trips, and vice-versa.
“We like to think we ran the senate all those years,” LaHood said. “We were the brightest people in it.”
LaHood has since retired, but Goodman is still teaching and involved, all the way down to writing the Senate Bulletin newsletter for his SUNY colleagues.
Always attuned to a pen, Goodman has been a part of the making of nine books. Some he wrote, others he edited. His proudest one was his first, which he co-wrote when he was a graduate student in 1961.
Despite his long career, Goodman said that there were still a few things he needed to work on, namely, being a better person.
“As you get older, you get a bit more cranky and you need to counteract that,” he said.
His wife agreed in that he could be a little cranky, but said that the two had a rule to never go to bed angry at each other.
“We kiss and make up,” she said. LaHood defended his friend’s honor.
“When you’re as intelligent as he is, you see some not very intelligent things going on in the world,” LaHood said. “He’s not cranky, just dissatisfied.”
Even with his shortcomings, his proudest accomplishment overall are his children and grandchildren. He is proud of their honesty and when they root for the New York Mets, his favorite baseball team.
At this point, Goodman has no plans to retire. He said that he has three reasons for staying in his post.
“One is that I like what I do. The second is that I’m still good at it and I’ve asked my junior colleagues to tell me when that’s not true. And the third is here, I don’t know how I’m going to deal with all these books.”