Memories of Marvin


There are few names that echo louder in the history of the Stony Brook School than Marvin W. Goldberg.

For over fifty years he and his wife, Dorothie, were a fixture of life on campus, and it all began with a chance encounter. In 1945 Marvin was commissioned by a magazine to interview Frank E. Gaebelein, our first Headmaster. He must have asked the right questions because upon completing interview, Gaebelein promptly offered him a position on the faculty.

For the next five decades Marvin was a beloved science teacher and wore a variety of hats including college placement counselor and chief academic administrator. He also found time to sing in the community choir, lead field trips to Iceland and California, publish a monthly journal for fans of track and field, and write a monthly almanac on special interest topics for Long Islanders. He was a Renaissance Man in the truest sense of the word, but when people hear the name “Marvin Goldberg” there is often only one thing that comes to mind. Running.

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For thirty-seven years he was the cross country and track coach for the Blue and White and his innovative tactics, attention to detail, and ceaseless work ethic guided his teams to a combined 53 League Championships and five County Championships. His individual runners also won countless honors both at Stony Brook and the college level. His contribution to the sport is illustrated in Shoreham-Wading River High School’s Marvin Goldberg Relays held each April and in a cross country race named for him, run each fall at Sunken Meadow State Park. He was also honored in 1982 at the Penn Relays, the world’s longest-running relay carnival. Those accomplishments would elicit pride in anyone, but Marvin, like the apostle Paul, counted it all as loss.

Beyond the staggering success of his programs, it was the love and care he had for his runners and a desire to mentor and challenge them that he most valued. Trophies tarnish and banners fade, but the marks he left on the lives he touched are as fresh as the day they were made. You see, Marvin had a higher calling as a coach. It was not just about winning races; it was about pushing his runners physically so that one day they would know how to go the distance spiritually, vocationally, and relationally. He knew that if his runners could learn to run through the pain and push to a physical plateau they did not know they could reach, then maybe they could persevere through a rough time in their marriage, or withstand the loss of a job, or weather the storm of spiritual doubt. It is for these reasons that Marvin is remembered and revered by many. Marvin passed away in May of 1995, but the echo of his life’s impact has not yet faded, nor will it for many years to come.

In 1997 the school honored him by christening the new all-weather running surface encompassing Fitch Field, the “Marvin W. Goldberg Track.” This Saturday, amid the Homecoming Weekend celebrations, a vision of Robin Lingle ’60, one of Marvin’s runners and a beloved coach in his own right, will finally come to fruition as a sign for the track is unveiled at halftime of the boys’ soccer game. In honor of the event we have compiled memories of Marvin from his runners and colleagues. They vividly illustrate how deep Marvin’s impact remains, decades after it was first made.

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Due to Marvin Goldberg’s strict discipline, our track team was able to win SBS’ first Ivy League Championship in 1956. I remember Mr. Goldberg asking me to get up an hour early before the breakfast bell rang, during the cold Spring mornings, and run high hurdles down at the track during my senior year. In doing so, and as captain of the track team, I had the privilege of breaking the Ivy League records in the 120 high hurdles and 220 low hurdels held at Hofstra University, then known as Hofstra College.

~ Stuart E. Dow ’56

Mr. Goldberg was one of my true heroes. I came to the Brook when Robin [Lingle] was a senior and his brother Carl came the next year and became my closest friend and roommate at Stony Brook.

I remember two very vivid days on the cross country field. I had eaten spaghetti at lunch. I had terrible pains in my side. Mr. Goldberg was there as I ran by. I said I have bad pains in my side. His reply was classic. He said, “Stop making excuses, Tommy and just keep running.” I never ate spaghetti at lunch during cross country season again. We all came back early for cross country season. We had three practices a day. We were so sore we all walked around stiff-legged because it hurt to bend our knees. It would have reminded you of a bunch of ducks walking.

He was also an excellent chemistry teacher. A man of the absolute highest integrity. In those days Bruce Lockerbie, another hero of mine, was also an Olympic-class runner and ran with Robin. Cherished memories…

~ Tom Ott ’63

The subject of MWG is extremely important to me. He coached me to a 3rd place State cross country finish, a 3rd place indoor State finish and a 2nd place outdoor State finish — which incidentally was the sixth-fastest time in the country that year and still stands as the school’s 800 meter record (since 1975). I think our 4×400 record still stands too. At North Carolina, I was ACC champion and then a two-time national relay champion for the NYAC and became a pro, running for the USA and Nike, and the NYAC until 1981, and becoming the head coach of Track & XC at North Carolina. None of this happens without first being the son of DBL [D. Bruce Lockerbie] — who himself was the Canadian record holder and world ranked from 1955-1963 — and Coach Goldberg.
After retiring from coaching at Carolina in 1985, I started my business of sports venue and stadium design and have designed over 400 sports venues and have worked on six Olympic Games, four FIFA World Cups and the Cricket World Cup — while being a consultant to the IOC, FIFA, IAAF, etc. Again, Marvin helped mentor me until he passed. Robin Lingle also coached me with DBL and the three men are the fundamental reason for my success. I also designed the MWG Track after Thad Gaebelein presented the opportunity when he was the Headmaster.
~ Don Lockerbie ’75
Coach Goldberg was one of the greatest and most influential men in my life.
~ Glenn Ogden ’65
I only ran track for one year while at the Brook, but I can still hear Mr Goldberg’s voice in my ear as we prepared to run 440 sprints…”Go ahead, please…”
~ Carl Nelson ’65
I had just delivered one of the first chapel talks of my career. I read a shocking excerpt from a book in order to hook the students. Marvin disagreed with my strategy and confronted me after first chapel by saying, in his inimitable voice, “Michael, I was about to get up and walk out… but I didn’t want to make a scene.” He went on to confront me in such Christian love that I went away better for it, and had even greater respect for him that I had had to begin with… and then I had to come up with a new talk before second chapel…
~ Mike Hickey
Marvin Goldberg was one of the most influential mentors in my life. He was admissions officer when I first applied for the seventh grade in 1948 as a foreign student with inadequate English. Thus he suggested age appropriate books to read over the summer. He was both our chemistry teacher and cross country and track coach in my junior and senior years. Three in my chemistry class were admitted to MIT in 1953, (I also won the SBS Chemistry prize). I was also a member of the SBS cross country team that were champions in our league. He paid attention to every detail–he made me drink tea with lots of sugar before a race in Van Cortland Park in NYC. He Made me eat slowly to avoid gas pains, and not run on hard surfaces during training to avoid  shin splints. I continued these habits when I ran in the MIT freshman team.
I also baby sat for the Goldberg girls, often eating angel food cake provided, and listening to LPs from their large classical music collection, ultimately incorporating many in my own collection. I continued to visit SBS and stayed at the Goldbergs. I was involved in building design projects and attended class reunions 50 and 60 years after graduating from Stony Brook. Thank the Lord for Marvin Goldberg in my life.
~ Samuel Wang ’53
Marvin spoke quite often about Arthur Lydiard — the world-renowned middle-distance and distance coach. He invited Arthur to come to Stony Brook. He spoke to us and we even ran with him that day. Runner’s World magazine hailed Lydiard as the all-time best running coach. Marvin was constantly studying coaching and coaches’ methods and applying all the latest advancements to our training.
~ Peter Randall ’65
Marvin Goldberg was among my most influential teachers and coaches at SBS. I often recall Marvin’s admonition in cross country: “When you encounter an uphill slope, do not allow this to slow you down. Lean forward with your head down. Soon you will be at the top and headed on an easy downhill.” The same is true in life. Lean into the difficult times and situations life presents, and soon everything will become easier and victory ultimately achieved.
~ Bart Cleveland ’54

As much as I love running, I was not a great or gifted runner like many of my teammates. In fact, a teacher at Stony Brook once said to me, “Jim, Why do you keep running? You will never be any good at it.” I was extremely tired one workout during cross country season and I finished behind all the other runners while struggling to maintain slightly more than a jogging pace. I was very discouraged as I was the last athlete left on the field. Mr. Goldberg waited until I finished the workout and then he pulled me aside, put his arm around my shoulder, and rather than berating me for such a poor workout, he started telling me that I was a talented runner and that he saw great potential in me in the future as long as I continued to work hard. It turned a lousy workout into a defining moment for me.

~ Jim Hansen ’77

I ran cross country and track for SBS from Spring of 1964 through Spring of 1967. I did not run cross country the fall of my freshman year because at my admission interview I inquired about the cross country and track teams, and was amazed at the times that were being run. Intimidated by this, I played football my freshman year and broke the thumb of my throwing hand. So in the Spring, I went out for track, mostly running sprints with very little success in terms of helping the team score points. But, with one week to go before our conference championship, Mr. Goldberg had me train to run the freshmen mile. With his belief in me, and his relentless training regime, I was successful.

My most memorable MWG athletic moment was during my first cross country season. It was my sophomore year, and the first meet I would finish as one of our top five runners. I have vivid memories of Mr. Goldberg working us constantly on running hills. Parts of every workout for about two to three weeks prior to the West Point meet would be devoted to hills. On particularly unpleasant weather days, Mr. Goldberg would ask us if we thought the Plebes were working as hard as we were. I guess he would have used that ploy against any opponent.

I also remember the anticipation of going to WEST POINT, to have the privilege of running against the Plebes…WOW! I grew up in that area and I remember visiting West Point on a school field trip as a kid. I was totally enthralled by the entire experience; and now I was going there to compete against them.

The course was rather dull, which surprised me given the vast amount of land on which they could plan a course. We basically ran up a hill and around a parking lot, up another hill and around a parking lot, and up a third hill and around a parking lot; then retracing our steps back down and finishing by running around a large parade ground. I believe the race distance was 3 miles, longer than our normal 2.5 miles.

Here’s the most vivid part for me. When I came down the final hill and began that big lap around the parade ground, I was just barely ahead of the Plebes fifth runner. I didn’t realize the importance of my position in the race, but Mr. Goldberg certainly did. If I beat that runner, SBS wins by one point, if I let him pass me, the Plebes win by one point.

This is my recollection of that last lap. My heart was pounding, because I was our fifth runner, a goal I had wanted to achieve all season. I was anxious, because of the tremendous respect I had for Mr. Goldberg, and not wanting to disappoint him. As I started around the parade ground, all I could hear was Mr. Goldberg’s voice yelling, “Come on, Mike.” He said this over and over again, and I can still hear it today. I couldn’t let him down. We beat the Plebes that day, and again my junior and senior years.

I tell this story because, for me, it embodies the character of Mr. Goldberg. He was always extremely thorough in his preparation, whether for a chemistry class or a cross country workout. He was a man of principle, and modeled for me the SBS mantra, “Character Before Career.” He coached teams, but he cared about individuals. He would often plan workouts for individual runners, because he knew that not everyone responded the same to a given training plan. But most importantly for me were his thoughts and advice about my future immediately after SBS. He informed me of several colleges that were interested in my running ability, even to the point of discussing scholarship availability. But he knew me, and knew that, while these large colleges would give me a great opportunity to develop my running abilities, they might not be a good fit for me personally. With his help, I settled on a small Christian college in New England, a very positive life-changing decision for me.

~ Michael Wildeman ’67

As a rookie teacher, I recall the esteemed Senior Master Marvin Goldberg, in his forty-third year of service, bringing me a basket lunch every day for a week while I was convalescing from knee surgery. Here was a leader who had affectionate regard for me–a young teacher far from family and childhood friends. It gave me a deep sense of well-being.

~ David Church

Marvin Goldberg and I both arrived at SBS in the fall of 1945. From his first cross country team, through algebra, science, and track, to his unique advice about my route to enrollment in Penn, Marvin Goldberg was my prime mentor. A few years ago, I heard a prominent educator review a research project on developing the best in young people. I realized that he was describing what Marvin Goldberg was doing with me, a kid from farm country in Ohio. Edgar Guest expressed it best:

“I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day.

I’d rather one would walk with me than merely tell the way.”

~ Bruce Dodd ’49

He was a major influence on my life in the areas of self-discipline, persistence in the face of adversity and humbleness in the times of success.
I believe his success as a coach was his attention to detail in developing training regimens and his ability to instill a winning attitude in his teams by building mental toughness in his athletes. No one trained by him would ever be called a “quitter.”
I remember several times in cross country meets when it was possible for us to have the first five finishers and at those times we would cross the finish line holding hands for a “team” win.
Practices were grueling and no-nonsense but had the effect of not only building us up physically and mentally but of building a team spirit. Under Marvin Goldberg, cross country and track and field were definitely team sports.
I feel very privileged to have attended Stony Brook and to have had Marvin Goldberg as my coach.
~ Gordon Scott ’54
In my fifty-sixth year of life, I am running along Shaker Road in our little rural New Hampshire town. There is a bit of a drizzle; my legs feel heavy. And a voice from within proposes that I turn back. And then the coach speaks from somewhere in my memory: “Quit now, Gordie, and you’ll make it just a bit easier to quit something more important later on.” So I keep going because the coach insists.
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If MWG’s immediate goal was to develop resilient athletes, I think his longer-range goal was to build resilient Christian men. Few days go by that I do not remember his impact on my life.
~ Gordon MacDonald ’57
Excerpts from his book, The Resilient Life (reprinted with permission)

I met Mr. Goldberg when I was young. My brothers ran for him on the track team. I was in fifth or sixth grade. I wanted to run in the homecoming 5K and Mr. Goldberg refused to let me because I was too young and didn’t meet the cut-off date (for age). I was very angry and hurt going home that night, because competing and being with my brothers was exceptionally important to me. I had learned on important lesson that day; Mr. Goldberg was a man of principle. When I entered ninth grade, I ran for Mr. Goldberg for cross country and track and field. He was always encouraging, positive, frank (to the point of painfulness), and spoke the truth in love. I know he was disappointed that I didn’t continue to run all four years, however he understand my dedication to swimming took precedence.

In the course of the following three years, I took many classes with Mr. Goldberg to include Marine Science and my Independent Study. I can quite honestly say that in my family, we referred to him affectionately as a walking encyclopedia. He was very knowledgeable about a wide range of topics. There was very little he didn’t know. When I spoke to him about his knowledge, he was very humble and thankful. I learned that not only did he have skills on the track, but that he was also discerning and wise. He forecasted weather better than any meteorologist in New York. He engaged students in the classroom and out of the classroom on the many walks around the Brook learning about the environment.

As a teacher today, I still talk about Mr. Goldberg with my students. He gave me a love of words and an interest in a depth of understanding about various topics (not only those that interest me, but topics of those people with whom I share a connection). I share that love of words with my students and try to light a fire and love in my students for words. I believe he was an amazing, remarkable man whose legacy goes far beyond his years.

Perhaps the most important remembrance for me is Mr. Goldberg’s love of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Working in a public school, I am not allowed to bring the Word of God into the classroom in words. He taught us that a love of God is expressed not just in how a man speaks, but in every word, thought, and action that is expressed by a person. I attempt to share that unspoken love and commitment to my own students.

~ Ann Marie Wycoff (Bagshaw) ’85

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