The University of Arizona will lose one of its stars in May as Jeffrey Goldberg, Ph.D., dean emeritus of the College of Engineering, retires. Speaking prior to the coronavirus pandemic, he said he planned to travel, see his grandkids more often, and practice a healthier lifestyle in his golden years. For now, Goldberg and his wife, Donna, are sheltering in place in their east side home. For exercise, he’s taking long walks in the desert and playing some early morning, solo rounds of golf.
Goldberg, 62, joined the UArizona staff in 1985 as an assistant professor of systems and industrial engineering after interviews at several other schools. He then was a recent graduate of the University of Michigan Ph.D. program and he and his wife, Donna, were seeking jobs. UArizona offered jobs to them both, which did not happen often at the time, he recalls. They took the posts and stayed.
Goldberg has been a significant contributor to the university. In 1999 he won the UArizona El-Paso Natural Gas Foundation Faculty Achievement Award for outstanding teaching and research. His textbook, “The Design and Analysis of Lean Production Systems” (with Ron Askin) won the “Outstanding Book in Industrial Engineering Award” from the Institute for Industrial Engineering in 2002-2003.
He was a recipient of the Shingo Prize for excellence in manufacturing (outstanding paper award, 1994), and spent a year at West Point as a visiting professor in the department of systems engineering.
Goldberg became associate dean for academic affairs for the UArizona College of Engineering in May 2005. Seeking to increase the retention rate of engineering students, improve students’ classroom experiences, increase student learning, and increase the diversity of the engineering student population, he led an effort that resulted in improvements in entering-student quality, first and second-year retention in engineering, and overall university retention. He piloted programs for increasing the number of quality high school students enrolling in engineering, co-developed and co-taught a freshman success seminar and tutoring program, and co-developed and co-taught orientation programs for new faculty members and graduate teaching assistants.
He now has a small consulting company, Silver Oak Research, that specializes in emergency response system design and educational credential evaluation. Silver Oak has helped design ambulance systems in 10 metropolitan areas in the U.S. and Canada.
Beyond his stellar career, Goldberg says his greatest achievements are his four kids and three grandkids.
He also can be proud of his accomplishments as a member of the local Jewish community. He was the second president of Congregation Or Chadash, in 1996. “I had no experience but I learned a lot about dealing with people. And I learned a lot about fundraising, making a budget, and meeting payroll. That really helped me with my work at the U of A,” he says.
“Jeff was the president who hired me,” says Or Chadash Cantor Janece Cohen. “He actually came to me and said, ‘We have no budget but I think we really need you to be our cantor. I’m committed to making this work’ — and he did. Jeff makes things happen because he is the best combination of a great leader and a truly passionate Jew.”
Goldberg also served on the board of the University of Arizona Hillel Foundation for six years and on the board of Jewish Family & Children’s Services.
Part of the Goldbergs’ estate plan is a pledge in the Jewish Community Foundation’s Endowment Book of Life. Along with wishing to provide for the Jewish community, Goldberg says, he and Donna signed the Book of Life as a way to get their children involved in philanthropy. The children will decide where their money goes.
Goldberg’s parents set a generous example. As he was growing up in Pittsburgh, each month his parents would pick three charities and donate $25 to each. Family life also helped set him on his career path.
“I’m a firstborn in my family. So I was well trained that I was going to be the problem solver. That’s how my parents thought of me, that’s how my brother and sister thought of me, as well. All throughout high school and college, I just thought I would be the problem solver. I feel best about myself when I’m making a contribution to help people be better,” says Goldberg, explaining that this is why he went into engineering. He saw it as a field that focused on solving people’s problems. Engineering, he says, is a people-oriented job despite what others seem to think. He says the key to being a leader in engineering is understanding and satisfying the needs of people.
UArizona Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Jerzy Rozenblit says Goldberg is “extremely positive, very energetic, very friendly, and embracing of our faculty and students. He’s very student-oriented and unafraid to explore new directions.”
Goldberg has instilled a culture of collaboration within the college, says Rozenblit. He adds that Goldberg was such a hard worker he often sent a reply within two minutes of receiving an email, even when he was in a different time zone.
“Jeff is a people’s person. He is very open, very embracing and friendly, and supportive of not only his team but his students. He definitely left a big imprint here,” Rozenblit says.
AJP Executive Editor Phyllis Braun contributed to this article.