Laura Goldin, the founder and chair of the Environmental Studies Program at Brandeis University, passed away on Feb. 2 at the age of 71 in Austin, Texas. Goldin not only made an impact on the Brandeis community through the Environmental Studies (ENVS) program, but she had a huge impact on the greater community with her charity Manna from Heaven.
“Throughout her life [Goldin’s] kindness and dedication to others’ well-being was the foundation of who she was and how she lived. Always, Goldin was happiest when she was giving,” reads Goldin’s obituary.
Joseph Allen, an associate professor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, posted about Goldin’s passing. The two taught a class together at Brandeis on environmental justice and environmental health; Allen describes her as having had “an unmatched energy.”
Philip Lu ’11, a Biologist Training Specialist at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, had Goldin as a professor and she served as his thesis advisor. “Much of what I have been able to accomplish in my career in conservation—its catalyst—can be attributed to her,” wrote Lu in an online in memoriam dedicated to Goldin. In the blog post, Lu shared experiences he had with Goldin from class presentations to fieldwork.
“[Goldin] and her students worked with the community to tackle issues such as lead exposure in low-income housing and exposure of nail and hair salon workers to toxic chemicals, and to create programs such as educational gardens in local K-12 public schools,” reads her obituary.
Lu went on to share a message from Goldin where she stated, “I expected to remain much longer in ENVS but serious health problems made that impossible.” Lu has since become a mentor for current students in the ENVS program and came back to speak with students in an alumni career panel in 2022.
“[Lu] will miss her terribly and countless others who have been touched by her compassion, warmth, and intellect will as well,” he wrote in the post.
Lu also went on to write about Goldin’s personal accomplishments. Goldin was a “trailblazer” according to Lu, including being a part of the first class of women to graduate from Yale.
Not only did Goldin spearhead the founding of the ENVS program, she also was the founder of the Brandeis/Waltham Alliance for Teaching, Community Organizing, and Housing (WATCH) Housing Advocacy Clinic. WATCH, a community program that runs educational events, community organizing and housing, is based in the south side of Waltham. The university and WATCH border the area most densely populated in Waltham with more than half of the city’s population. According to the university’s webpage, a majority of this population is low-income immigrant families. Goldin along with her students and the greater Waltham community launched the collaborative Housing Advocacy Clinic with WATCH. The Advocacy Clinic began in January 2007, and students each semester and summer worked with Goldin to “supervise, organize, train and direct the clinic’s day-to-day operations,” according to the university’s webpage.
The purpose of the clinic is to serve the needs of the Waltham community; it “offers to its constituents a welcoming environment with caring student staff, eager to educate, assist and empower,” according to the webpage.
Alan Minuskin, a professor at Boston College Law School, wrote of his experience working with Goldin at the WATCH Advocacy Clinic. “Goldin was as modest as she was brilliant, and as compassionate as she was innovative. She always believed there was a way to overcome challenges, and she was consistently right,” he wrote on her obituary page.
While at the university as a professor and mentor, Goldin continued to consult pro bono on environmental justice, wetlands protection and land preservation issues. To honor her work in environmental studies and justice, the university established the Laura Goldin Lecture Series on Climate Change, Health and Social Justice in 2020. The name was selected after a group of students voted it should be named after Goldin. The lecture series is funded by the Brandeis Sustainability Fund to “provide educational opportunities outside of the classroom that focuses on the intersection of climate change and environmental and social justice,” according to the university’s webpage.
Goldin’s involvement in bettering the communities she was in continued outside of the university. She was a part of the charity organization Manna from Heaven. The organization assembled a network of volunteers who pick up food at grocery stores and restaurants and then deliver it to local food pantries, according to her obituary.
The funeral home service was held on Feb. 9. Goldin’s legacy was honored by former students, classmates and colleagues on her obituary page where they spoke of her personality and the impact she had on their lives and on the community.