When approached about composing this article, I thought, “How do I begin to write a piece for CONTXT that, in 600 words or so, fully describes a man and his legacy to Ringling College that is so incredibly monumental?” The quick answer: It’s impossible. But, I will do my best to share what Al Goldstein meant and continues to mean to me.
Maybe it can best be described by my encounters with him. It all began shortly after I arrived at Ringling in the summer of 1999. I remember it well. I had set up a meeting with him and went into it knowing it would probably be difficult because Al had been a member of the Board of Trustees of Ringling College and a donor (he contributed money for Goldstein Studio Village), but had resigned from the Board about two years prior because of policy issues. His departure was somewhat unpleasant.
We met at his home, and he and his gracious wife, Ann, warmly welcomed me. Yet, I still felt a certain uneasy nervousness—likely more on my part than theirs.
Anyway, the meeting proceeded. I told him about myself, about my then developing vision for the College, and about what his contributions had meant to the students. He told me he was a big believer in private higher education, but he had decided to join the Foundation Board of New College, and had just given a major gift to them to name a residence hall. I responded by telling him how pleased and proud I was of his contribution to benefit education of students, no matter where they attended.
Our subsequent meetings were over coffee a few times throughout the next few years. And finally, I asked him, if invited by our Trustees would he be willing to consider returning to the Ringling College Board? Two weeks later, he called and said he would.
From that moment on, our relationship blossomed. Al was so bright, especially in financial matters. He was on the Finance and Investment Committee, as well as the Executive Committee. He was someone who loved to both challenge and raise legitimate questions—always asking the hard questions. He deeply respected the truth, and I believe he respected reasoned answers that may have pushed back on his assumptions. But, I always knew it was never going to be possible to get anything past him.
As a result of the love he developed for Ringling College, he made numerous substantial gifts to the institution. He gave the College its first seven-figure gift in 2004 to name what is now called the Ann and Alfred Goldstein Center, where our IT and Film departments are now housed. That was followed by a gift for scholarships, the development of our Business of Art and Design major, and other new majors to be created, and for other purposes. In 2010, in honor of that gift, the new residence hall, then called North Hall, was named the Ann and Alfred Goldstein Hall. When we held the dedication ceremony, we presented to Al our highest honor, an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from Ringling College, because of his role in playing such an integral part in the growth in size and the increased academic quality of the College. That was the moment he became “Dr. Goldstein.”
In 2013, he became an Honorary Life Trustee. In 2016 his health unfortunately began to deteriorate. Yet, Al continued to stay active with Ringling College. As we were constructing the new library on campus, he made the decision he would like to make another substantial contribution to the College, and asked if he could have his name on the library. Wow! I, of course, said yes, and today we are beyond proud that this magnificent and inspiring facility is named the Alfred R. Goldstein Library.
Fortunately, Al was able to attend the opening ceremony for the Library and absolutely loved it. He asked me to read the following statement on his behalf:
“This is the best gift to myself, in that I not only watched but also participated in the growth of the College from a little known institution to one of the leading arts colleges in the nation. The Library is the heart and soul of every institute of learning, so it gives me extra pleasure to have my name on this beautiful new building!”
Sadly, Al passed away on June 26, 2017.
So, that was Al. He was a true visionary. He loved young people. He loved education and saw it as the portal to the future. He was by far the best negotiator with whom I’ve ever dealt. He was tough, but always fair. He loved a good argument. He loved to keep people on their toes.
He was a lovely man. And I loved him.
By Dr. Larry R. Thompson, President of Ringling College of Art and Design | Portrait by Nahman L’Hrar (Illustration, ’18)