Marshall I. Goldman


Portrait of Marshall I. Goldman

Marshall Goldman, Kathryn W. Davis Professor of Russian Economics emeritus, died on Aug. 2 at the age of 87. Marshall grew up in Elgin, Ill., and received his bachelor’s degree from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He earned his master’s and Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University. In 1958, he joined the Wellesley faculty, and for the next 40 years was an extraordinarily devoted and distinguished member of the Wellesley community.

Those who worked with Marshall remember him as energetic, funny, hard working, an intense competitor on the squash court, a loyal and truthful colleague. Given his enthusiasm for sharing what he knew, it is no surprise that he was a popular and admired teacher. He would study the portrait directory of students and know all their names the first day of classes. Marshall was a feminist from the start, committed to promoting the success of young women in every sphere of their lives. He was doubtless inspired by the example of his wife of 64 years, Merle Goldman, an expert on modern Chinese history and professor emerita at Boston University, and later by his daughters and daughters-in-law. His eyes lit up whenever he talked of his family.

In the spring of 1972, the economics department issued its first annual newsletter, a tradition we have maintained ever since. The newsletter was sent to alumnae who had majored in economics and included updates on the faculty. Marshall’s first entry follows:

“Marshall I. Goldman returned from sabbatical leave in September 1971. During his leave, he completed work on two books, both of which appeared in 1972. The first is a revision of an earlier book now called Ecology and Economics, published by Prentice-Hall; the second is The Spoils of Progress: Environmental Pollution in the Soviet Union, published by MIT Press and translated into Japanese. Also during the past year, his articles have appeared in The New Yorker, Harvard Business Review, New York Times, The Nation, Journal of Political Economy, and Boston Globe. As part of his work on environmental problems, he was invited to conferences in Tokyo, Finland, Paris, Moscow, and New York City. His speaking engagements included appearances on local television and lectures at Wesleyan, Dartmouth, Columbia, Harvard, Boston College, the U.S. State Department, Naval War College, and Wellesley Garden Club.”

Amazingly enough, Marshall’s updates always read this way, year after packed year. He was a prolific author, publishing more than a dozen books, most focused on the Soviet and Russian economy. Marshall was especially prescient in predicting the collapse of the Soviet Union and later doubting that perestroika, the economic reforms associated with Mikhail Gorbachev, would succeed. He was a longtime fellow and associate director of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Research at Harvard. He was also an active and influential public intellectual, representing Wellesley in the world at large. He wrote opinion pieces that appeared in major U.S. newspapers and periodicals. He spoke on Good Morning America, appeared with Ted Koppel on Nightline, contributed to NPR, gave expert testimony to Congressional committees, briefed Sen. Ted Kennedy, and met with U.S. and Russian presidents.

Marshall’s interest in the world was global and local. He was equally delighted to meet with President George H. W. Bush at Kennebunkport and to speak at the College’s Hillel. Indeed, he was a generous and long-time supporter of Wellesley Hillel and of Jewish life at Wellesley. And Marshall loved to speak to Wellesley alumnae. In one year alone, while on sabbatical in 1991–92, he spoke at over 25 Wellesley alumnae clubs about the failings of perestroika. He also led Wellesley College alumnae tours, including a legendary one in which he and Merle took an alumnae contingent, including Kathryn Wasserman Davis ’28, on a trip by rail from Beijing to Moscow.

Marshall was an unstinting supporter of Wellesley College in general, and the Wellesley economics department in particular. Every year, the department hosts the Goldman Lecture, bringing in a luminary in the world of economics and politics to discuss current issues. His family established the Marshall I. Goldman Professorship of Economics in his honor, and Kristin F. Butcher ’86, the current department head, is the inaugural holder of that professorship.

As recently as 2009, Marshall’s newsletter entry was as daunting as ever:

“The big event for Marshall was the publication of his new book Petrostate: Putin, Power and the New Russia by Oxford University Press. There will soon be editions in German, Japanese, Russian, and even Estonian. Despite a sometimes critical review of the book in Russia, Marshall was invited to meet once again with Vladimir Putin as well as Dmitri Medvedev, now the president of Russia. The White House invited him to brief George W. Bush before Bush and Putin met in St. Petersburg. He also led a group of Wellesley alumnae along the river-canal route from Moscow to St. Petersburg, which he expects to do again this June.”

In more recent years, slowed by age and illness, Marshall talks in the newsletter about spending time at home with friends, with Merle, who survives him, and with his four children and their families, including 12 grandchildren. Marshall’s love of family was apparent to all who had the good fortune to know him.

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