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Missing Barney

By On
• In Bellingham, People,

What a difficult time to be the (new to this region) president of Western Washington University. In his autumn address to faculty and staff, Bruce Shepard laments, "While we came through the year with core commitments intact, we did see state support for our operating budget drop from 60% to 43%. I don't mean over decades, I mean overnight….How can we better make the case for public higher education in Washington? With the state now a minority shareholder in our operating budget, we are no longer a 'public university' in the accustomed sense so, just what are we?"

“Ethically vulnerable, that's what you are!" I mutter snippily and then plead, "Please, please, don't succumb to the temptation to further sell Western Washington University (and education in general) out to private corporate interests. Afterall Bruce, it is the job of the public, the citizenship and our government, to control corporations, not vice versa. And it is the job of a public university, to educate people capable of doing this well."

Maybe Bruce should go talk to Barney Goltz about this frightening situation, YA THINK?????

Except that Barney died just last winter. I forgot again. Ouch. Still grieving. Not alone in this. Many of us miss Barney Goltz. He worked at Western Washington University, their planning officer from 1957 until 1989, and served as a Washington State Senator - successfully inspiring our leaders in Olympia to fund public higher education.

Barney died last Christmas. We approach the first year mark. Barney and his wife sent out cards every holiday season, and after Marguerite died, Barney kept sending them. This year that card won't arrive. Pat Fleeson says one year it read, "Deck The Halls With Matzo Balls!"

Governor Gregoire remembers. "Barney's advocacy and leadership in higher education have been extremely important to Washington's education system. He was a pillar in the higher education community."

Forgive me if I blubber, but Bruce…please visit Olympia and ask every person you meet about Barney and why you should study and honor his life and works. Of course, my tear-blurred, idealistic, absolutely ridiculous, and vivid imagination instantly pictures a thousand WWU students, workers, staff and professors, joined by Barney's many local friends and fans, all visiting Olympia, just to ask everyone we meet, "Did you know Barney Goltz? Tell me about him. Why did he promote higher education? Why did Barney think public education so important? How did he accomplish so much?"

According to former WWU President Olscamp, "...I did not for some time after arriving realize Barney was the planning officer for the University. He was often as not, more often than not, in Olympia, because he was a state senator. And early on I, in a kind of cynical way, thought, you know, 'some planning officer we've got here. He's always in Olympia.' But as a matter of fact, a lot of the things that happened at Western…wouldn't have happened if it hadn't been for Barney Goltz down in Olympia doing his job. He was really effective at it, and he too, was a gentleman." (WWU!: As It Was! p. 264)

Barney Goltz was humble and kind and well loved (at the very least, highly respected) by just about everyone he ever met. Not that Barney didn't take hard unpopular stands - defending the Constitution of the United States, for example.

Or how about that giant industrial orange sculpture outside the Performing Arts Center on Western's campus? Many many people don't like that piece; but some love it. A few years back, in WWU's journalism department newspaper, "The Western Front," Barney explained why critics should stop complaining. It is merely one part of a much bigger gift.

"Virginia Wright owns a personal collection of contemporary art from artists such as Jackson Pollock and Robert Rauschenberg, that she continues to donate to Western…Imagine if the piece were gone from the plaza outside the Performing Arts Center," Barney comments.. "There would be a big hole in the sky."

Barney's advice on art, as well as politics, should forever be well taken, I feel, because Barney made WWU beautiful.

"Upon completion of the Ridgeway Dorm project I began working on the conversion of the Campus School to an academic building as well as the Bond Hall project. It became clear…that the University had no master plan for future expansion. ...I brought this lack..to the Board and they asked that I recommend an appropriate architect and…I recommended George Bartholick who… is mostly responsible for the campus that we call Western Washington University." (WWU! As it was. p 288)

Thank you George Bartholick, and thanks to Barney, too! We greatly appreciate Western's lovely campus and amazing sculpture collection (even the really ugly, industrial, postmodern, depressing crap, and despite the statue of the man who used to hunt cougars for bounty but now shacks up with bears). http://www.imagesofseattle.org/Artwork_of_Bellingham/UsedtoHuntCougarsBounty.HTML

Barney lived over by Cornwall Park, in the same house, for years and years and years. Barney was locally, as well as regionally, extremely politically active. When young, Barney studied under Hubert Humphrey. His son, Jeff Goltz ( a deputy attorney general in the Washington State Attorney General's Office) remembers Barney campaigning for Adlai Stevenson in Minnesota, and for John Kennedy after they moved to Bellingham. So many politicians and public servants (even Republicans) claim Barney as a mentor.

"He was so well-respected by not only the members of his own caucus and party, but by the entire Legislature. He was just the epitome of class in public service… In my opinion, he was in a class by himself." - County Executive Pete Kremen

"He was the kind of role model that everybody in elected office should try to emulate. He focused on solving problems for our community and generally maintaining a positive attitude, no matter what issues he was facing." State Rep. Kelli Linville, a 42nd District Democrat.

"He was unflappable and incorruptible, and a lot of fun to be around. " Mary Kay Becker, Washington Appeals Court judge and former state House member.
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"If he thought you were wrong, he would tell you, but it was never nasty and mean. I never saw him nasty and mean about anything. ...He was the kind of person that people were not afraid to talk to." Former WWU president Jerry Flora

Bellingham Mayor Dan Pike called Barney "a giant." (Bellingham Herald)

Barney Goltz (quiet, smart, witty, humble, honest and a champion of the democratic process, and higher education) particularly promoted the virtues of free speech. Barney valued everyone's views so much that he left us with a true story he titled:"The Case of the Censored Newsletter" (WWU! As it was.pg. 497).

Barney recalls when Western's President Bunke tried to stop the university newsletter from printing political cartoons that featured Bunke. The institutional newsletter was edited by James Mulligan. Barney was Mulligan's boss.

President Bunke called Barney into a meeting and said, "Incidentally, I don't believe that the college newsletter should be a forum for criticism of the administration and I want the anti-administration pieces and cartoons to be stopped immediately."

"Like tomorrow's issue?" Barney asked.

"Yes-like tomorrow!"

So Barney told James Mulligan to cut the cartoon, all at the last minute.

The next day, in the empty space, Mulligan printed:

"Due to a Presidential directive that no critical material may appear in future editions of this newsletter, this piece has been withdrawn."

President Bunke was furious and wanted Barney to fire Mulligan, but Barney reminded Western's president that only he could fire Mulligan. Bunke, of course, didn't wish to go that far.

Barney concludes, "The end result was that Jim Mulligan was not fired…and the newsletter continued to be published lacking any criticism of the administration.
Subsequently, however, a new faculty and staff newsletter appeared and is published regularly…and it once again contains letters and articles which represent a wide range of views and opinions. Freedom of the press reigns! "

“Freedom of the press reigns!” says Barney.

Freedom of the press reigns! I love that, and I love Barney and miss him so much.

Don't sell out, Bruce. Dedicate your life to the cause of publicly funded higher education. Like Barney did

About Kamalla Rose Kaur

Notifications • Bellingham • Member since Jul 12, 2009