Oh Captain, My Captain: Prof Dan Goodman

Last Updated on January 14, 2009

I’m still in shock, angry at God and trying to come to terms with the sudden and tragic death of my close friend, advisor, professor, and mentor.

I saw Prof Dan Goodman’s email signature on a daily basis. We, along with my pal and fellow student (and Goodmanite) Thomas Whitley, would trade emails on the subjects of religion, politics, movies, music and the meaning of life on what seemed to be a nonstop conversation. Thomas is the guy on the left in the picture above, then Prof Goodman then myself.

Here’s a glimpse into my email inbox when I search for “Goodman”:

Oh Captain, My Captain: Prof Dan Goodman 1

Prof Goodman’s email signature said he was the Bob Shepherd Chair of New Testament Studies at Gardner-Webb Divinity School. That was true, but he was much much more than that to many of us who called Gardner-Webb our place of study and our home away from home.

After a semester at Gardner-Webb in the Fall of ’06 (during which I got to experience the legendary “Parables” class that is still the stuff of legend at GWU Div), I left the school the following Spring due to an overwhelming sense of urgency to ramp up my marketing business since Anna and I had just found out we would be having our first child in the Fall of ’07.

This past summer, I decided to pick up my studies at GWU and finish my Masters of Divinity. I wasn’t sure what the future held, but I was hoping for PhD work. My primary reason to return to GWU was to study another year or two with Prof Goodman. He took me back in with open arms, reintegrated me back into the school, allowed me to speak freely about my own struggles with faith in our Formations group and encouraged me to seek out questions rather than answers. And he kept sharing good music with me. Perhaps most important, he saw the connection I would have with Thomas and encouraged us to become friends. I don’t think I could get through this without Thomas and our fellow friend Keely.

Having traveled to Washington DC, Savannah and Charleston with Prof Goodman, Thomas, Keely and six other GWU Divinity students this past Fall to take part in an investigation of Jewish-Christian relations, I immediately became interested in the topic because of Goodman’s passion about the subject. Over the next few months, I would find out more and more about this passion and his expertise as he shared his own visions for the future of Jewish-Christian dialogue and relations (and worship). It is a trip that has forever changed me and will continue to impact my own faith and studies.

Yet, it is the times Prof Goodman and I (or we) spent outside of class that I’ll always take with me. From a Conor Oberst concert here in Asheville when Goodman tried to get Thomas and I to mosh (moribdly enough to the song “I Don’t Wanna Die in the Hospital“) to Goodman stopping random fellow Steeler fans on the streets of DC to talk football to Goodman giving me advice about my future over a pizza at Subway, I don’t think I’ve ever met a more genuine person.

It’s not fair. He was supposed to live long and prosper. He was supposed to finish the books on Jewish-Christian relations he was writing this semester in order to change the world of worship and theology. He was supposed to be there when I needed a smile, or an email or a suggestion for a new album to listen to on the long drive from GWU to Asheville. I know fairness, like tomorrow, isn’t guaranteed, but I need some way to channel this frustration that I feel.

Larry McGehee passed away just a few short months ago. And now Prof Goodman. Selfishly, I feel like I’m without a mentor in this world. I’m without a guide. I’m not ready to go out into this world without a guide. I’m not ready for the “they are watching you from heaven” speak, as if they were corporal glowing entities like Obi-Wan and Anakin at the end of Return of the Jedi. I’m not ready for that. Goodman was the only person I learned something earth-shattering from during every single class (even if it was about Paul). I need that. I’m not ready to let go of that.

That is completely selfish of course, but that is how I feel at the moment and probably will for the foreseeable future. Goodman was much bigger than that. He meant so much to so many different people and he accomplished more in his short time here than most of us could ever hope to achieve. But I need to be selfish and come to grips with this.

Prof Goodman loved the line “victory is sweet even deep in the cheap seats” in Oberst’s song Cape Canaveral. I’ve listened to that song a good deal over the last 24 hours. It’s taken on a new meaning for me and I hear something reminiscent of Goodman every time I listen. I think it is through our shared love of music that I’ll continue to grieve and somehow process this failure of reality.

Love you much, Prof Goodman. Thank you for being you. You and your work will always live on in my memory and in the stories I tell to my children when they ask me who I looked up to and why I do what I do.

43 thoughts on “Oh Captain, My Captain: Prof Dan Goodman”

  1. Beautiful.I asked Trinity if I could read “O Captain, My Captain” in what I wrote to potentially share tomorrow. I'm glad I could share these memories with you too, Sam and am eternally grateful to have had you with me during this time.What I wrote for tomorrow is so similar to what you have written here. I am grateful that Goodman helped me and you to connect.I, like you, am without a mentor and without a guide. As you said last night, we are like Jesus' disciples wondering what to do now that he's gone. The key, though, is that we do it together. We need each other. I know I need you.

  2. I love you, Sam. And although we all feel a little lost right now, I am so glad we are lost together. On top of all the lessons that Dr. Goodman taught us and the memories that we share of him, the greatest gift he gave to us was in bringing the three of us together. As I am writing that I realize how cheesy I sound…but I have really come to rely on you and Thomas in a big way, and I seriously don't think I could have even began to process a loss like this without the two of you!

  3. Beautiful.

    I asked Trinity if I could read “O Captain, My Captain” in what I wrote to potentially share tomorrow. I’m glad I could share these memories with you too, Sam and am eternally grateful to have had you with me during this time.

    What I wrote for tomorrow is so similar to what you have written here. I am grateful that Goodman helped me and you to connect.

    I, like you, am without a mentor and without a guide. As you said last night, we are like Jesus’ disciples wondering what to do now that he’s gone. The key, though, is that we do it together. We need each other. I know I need you.

    1. Hey guys – I remember Goodman talking about the disciples and how they took up the work of Jesus after he was gone. As one who has been shaped by Dan Goodman, I hope my life will reflect his love for others and his commitment to honesty in scholarship and in the church. Although I am no longer a student at the Divinity school, I will stand together with you in an effort to carry out the work of a great man, who we all deeply miss.

  4. Beautiful.

    I asked Trinity if I could read “O Captain, My Captain” in what I wrote to potentially share tomorrow. I’m glad I could share these memories with you too, Sam and am eternally grateful to have had you with me during this time.

    What I wrote for tomorrow is so similar to what you have written here. I am grateful that Goodman helped me and you to connect.

    I, like you, am without a mentor and without a guide. As you said last night, we are like Jesus’ disciples wondering what to do now that he’s gone. The key, though, is that we do it together. We need each other. I know I need you.

    1. Hey guys – I remember Goodman talking about the disciples and how they took up the work of Jesus after he was gone. As one who has been shaped by Dan Goodman, I hope my life will reflect his love for others and his commitment to honesty in scholarship and in the church. Although I am no longer a student at the Divinity school, I will stand together with you in an effort to carry out the work of a great man, who we all deeply miss.

  5. Beautiful.

    I asked Trinity if I could read “O Captain, My Captain” in what I wrote to potentially share tomorrow. I’m glad I could share these memories with you too, Sam and am eternally grateful to have had you with me during this time.

    What I wrote for tomorrow is so similar to what you have written here. I am grateful that Goodman helped me and you to connect.

    I, like you, am without a mentor and without a guide. As you said last night, we are like Jesus’ disciples wondering what to do now that he’s gone. The key, though, is that we do it together. We need each other. I know I need you.

    1. Hey guys – I remember Goodman talking about the disciples and how they took up the work of Jesus after he was gone. As one who has been shaped by Dan Goodman, I hope my life will reflect his love for others and his commitment to honesty in scholarship and in the church. Although I am no longer a student at the Divinity school, I will stand together with you in an effort to carry out the work of a great man, who we all deeply miss.

  6. Beautiful.

    I asked Trinity if I could read “O Captain, My Captain” in what I wrote to potentially share tomorrow. I’m glad I could share these memories with you too, Sam and am eternally grateful to have had you with me during this time.

    What I wrote for tomorrow is so similar to what you have written here. I am grateful that Goodman helped me and you to connect.

    I, like you, am without a mentor and without a guide. As you said last night, we are like Jesus’ disciples wondering what to do now that he’s gone. The key, though, is that we do it together. We need each other. I know I need you.

  7. I love you, Sam. And although we all feel a little lost right now, I am so glad we are lost together. On top of all the lessons that Dr. Goodman taught us and the memories that we share of him, the greatest gift he gave to us was in bringing the three of us together.

    As I am writing that I realize how cheesy I sound…but I have really come to rely on you and Thomas in a big way, and I seriously don’t think I could have even began to process a loss like this without the two of you!

  8. I love you, Sam. And although we all feel a little lost right now, I am so glad we are lost together. On top of all the lessons that Dr. Goodman taught us and the memories that we share of him, the greatest gift he gave to us was in bringing the three of us together.

    As I am writing that I realize how cheesy I sound…but I have really come to rely on you and Thomas in a big way, and I seriously don’t think I could have even began to process a loss like this without the two of you!

  9. I love you, Sam. And although we all feel a little lost right now, I am so glad we are lost together. On top of all the lessons that Dr. Goodman taught us and the memories that we share of him, the greatest gift he gave to us was in bringing the three of us together.

    As I am writing that I realize how cheesy I sound…but I have really come to rely on you and Thomas in a big way, and I seriously don’t think I could have even began to process a loss like this without the two of you!

    1. Love you too, Keely.

      Not cheesy at all. Very meaningful and very true. Glad we all have
      each other.

      Sam

  10. Keely Harris DeBoever

    I love you, Sam. And although we all feel a little lost right now, I am so glad we are lost together. On top of all the lessons that Dr. Goodman taught us and the memories that we share of him, the greatest gift he gave to us was in bringing the three of us together.

    As I am writing that I realize how cheesy I sound…but I have really come to rely on you and Thomas in a big way, and I seriously don’t think I could have even began to process a loss like this without the two of you!

  11. Beautiful.I asked Trinity if I could read “O Captain, My Captain” in what I wrote to potentially share tomorrow. I'm glad I could share these memories with you too, Sam and am eternally grateful to have had you with me during this time.What I wrote for tomorrow is so similar to what you have written here. I am grateful that Goodman helped me and you to connect.I, like you, am without a mentor and without a guide. As you said last night, we are like Jesus' disciples wondering what to do now that he's gone. The key, though, is that we do it together. We need each other. I know I need you.

  12. I love you, Sam. And although we all feel a little lost right now, I am so glad we are lost together. On top of all the lessons that Dr. Goodman taught us and the memories that we share of him, the greatest gift he gave to us was in bringing the three of us together. As I am writing that I realize how cheesy I sound…but I have really come to rely on you and Thomas in a big way, and I seriously don't think I could have even began to process a loss like this without the two of you!

  13. Sam, be happy to be able to feel the sort of love for another person that can cause such pain. It makes you live at a much higher level and the experience will add more compassion to your relationships. These losses make us realize how precious every moment together really is and the importance of living in the present. You are in my thoughts and my heart goes out to you.

  14. Sam, I am so sorry for your loss. As I read through your post, I couldn't help tearing up. I had a person in my life much like your Prof. Goodman, who died way too soon, as well. I felt all things you've shared about ….and I sometimes still do, to tell you the truth. Music is what really got me through, too. Celine Dion, really. I will be forever grateful to Celine – she unknowingly held my head in her lap and my heart in her hands while I cried – for months. Have you ever read “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”? It is one of my very favorite books. Whenever I'm aching for Sammie, I take myself through that book in my head and it really helps. I need to sit down and actually read it again. My thoughts and prayers are with you.I saw your tweet that you went to email him. 🙁 {{{Sam}}}

  15. Sam, be happy to be able to feel the sort of love for another person that can cause such pain. It makes you live at a much higher level and the experience will add more compassion to your relationships. These losses make us realize how precious every moment together really is and the importance of living in the present. You are in my thoughts and my heart goes out to you.

  16. Sam, be happy to be able to feel the sort of love for another person that can cause such pain. It makes you live at a much higher level and the experience will add more compassion to your relationships. These losses make us realize how precious every moment together really is and the importance of living in the present. You are in my thoughts and my heart goes out to you.

  17. Sam, be happy to be able to feel the sort of love for another person that can cause such pain. It makes you live at a much higher level and the experience will add more compassion to your relationships. These losses make us realize how precious every moment together really is and the importance of living in the present. You are in my thoughts and my heart goes out to you.

  18. Sam, be happy to be able to feel the sort of love for another person that can cause such pain. It makes you live at a much higher level and the experience will add more compassion to your relationships. These losses make us realize how precious every moment together really is and the importance of living in the present. You are in my thoughts and my heart goes out to you.

  19. Sam, I am so sorry for your loss. As I read through your post, I couldn’t help tearing up. I had a person in my life much like your Prof. Goodman, who died way too soon, as well. I felt all things you’ve shared about ….and I sometimes still do, to tell you the truth. Music is what really got me through, too. Celine Dion, really. I will be forever grateful to Celine – she unknowingly held my head in her lap and my heart in her hands while I cried – for months.

    Have you ever read “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”? It is one of my very favorite books. Whenever I’m aching for Sammie, I take myself through that book in my head and it really helps. I need to sit down and actually read it again.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you.

    I saw your tweet that you went to email him. 🙁 {{{Sam}}}

  20. Sam, I am so sorry for your loss. As I read through your post, I couldn’t help tearing up. I had a person in my life much like your Prof. Goodman, who died way too soon, as well. I felt all things you’ve shared about ….and I sometimes still do, to tell you the truth. Music is what really got me through, too. Celine Dion, really. I will be forever grateful to Celine – she unknowingly held my head in her lap and my heart in her hands while I cried – for months.

    Have you ever read “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”? It is one of my very favorite books. Whenever I’m aching for Sammie, I take myself through that book in my head and it really helps. I need to sit down and actually read it again.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you.

    I saw your tweet that you went to email him. 🙁 {{{Sam}}}

  21. Sam, be happy to be able to feel the sort of love for another person that can cause such pain. It makes you live at a much higher level and the experience will add more compassion to your relationships. These losses make us realize how precious every moment together really is and the importance of living in the present. You are in my thoughts and my heart goes out to you.

  22. Sam, I am so sorry for your loss. As I read through your post, I couldn’t help tearing up. I had a person in my life much like your Prof. Goodman, who died way too soon, as well. I felt all things you’ve shared about ….and I sometimes still do, to tell you the truth. Music is what really got me through, too. Celine Dion, really. I will be forever grateful to Celine – she unknowingly held my head in her lap and my heart in her hands while I cried – for months.

    Have you ever read “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”? It is one of my very favorite books. Whenever I’m aching for Sammie, I take myself through that book in my head and it really helps. I need to sit down and actually read it again.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you.

    I saw your tweet that you went to email him. 🙁 {{{Sam}}}

  23. Sam, I am so sorry for your loss. As I read through your post, I couldn’t help tearing up. I had a person in my life much like your Prof. Goodman, who died way too soon, as well. I felt all things you’ve shared about ….and I sometimes still do, to tell you the truth. Music is what really got me through, too. Celine Dion, really. I will be forever grateful to Celine – she unknowingly held my head in her lap and my heart in her hands while I cried – for months.

    Have you ever read “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”? It is one of my very favorite books. Whenever I’m aching for Sammie, I take myself through that book in my head and it really helps. I need to sit down and actually read it again.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you.

    I saw your tweet that you went to email him. 🙁 {{{Sam}}}

  24. Sam, I am so sorry for your loss. As I read through your post, I couldn't help tearing up. I had a person in my life much like your Prof. Goodman, who died way too soon, as well. I felt all things you've shared about ….and I sometimes still do, to tell you the truth. Music is what really got me through, too. Celine Dion, really. I will be forever grateful to Celine – she unknowingly held my head in her lap and my heart in her hands while I cried – for months. Have you ever read “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”? It is one of my very favorite books. Whenever I'm aching for Sammie, I take myself through that book in my head and it really helps. I need to sit down and actually read it again. My thoughts and prayers are with you.I saw your tweet that you went to email him. 🙁 {{{Sam}}}

  25. Hey guys – I remember Goodman talking about the disciples and how they took up the work of Jesus after he was gone. As one who has been shaped by Dan Goodman, I hope my life will reflect his love for others and his commitment to honesty in scholarship and in the church. Although I am no longer a student at the Divinity school, I will stand together with you in an effort to carry out the work of a great man, who we all deeply miss.

  26. Hey guys – I remember Goodman talking about the disciples and how they took up the work of Jesus after he was gone. As one who has been shaped by Dan Goodman, I hope my life will reflect his love for others and his commitment to honesty in scholarship and in the church. Although I am no longer a student at the Divinity school, I will stand together with you in an effort to carry out the work of a great man, who we all deeply miss.

  27. Pingback: » Jesus said, “Be Passersby” sam harrelson

  28. Pingback: Remembering Danny Goodman: Four Years Is Too Long » Sam Harrelson :Sam Harrelson

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