Goldmans Share 50-Year Partnership of Love, Education, and Entrepreneurship
by John Conroy
Little did Renée K. Goldman and Richard M. Goldman know when they met in 1958 in an 11th-grade English class at Taylor Allderdice High School that it would lead to a marriage and a business partnership that continue to this day.
It’s a partnership brimming with the spirit of philanthropy and a desire to enrich the field of education—the beloved profession in which they’ve been immersed for five decades. In that vein, the Goldmans have made a $3 million gift to establish the Renée and Richard Goldman Dean’s Chair in the University of Pittsburgh School of Education. The gift has established an endowment that will be used by the University to support the salary, professional development, recruitment, expenses, and other scholarly activities of the dean of the School of Education. Alan Lesgold, dean of the school since 2000, will be the inaugural holder of the chair.
The couple has been giving to the school since 1976. In 2013, they made a gift of $50,000 to create the Richard M. and Renée K. Goldman Educational Entrepreneurial Fund, which supports the development of online programming in the area of educational entrepreneurship.
As to why they decided to give to the school, the Goldmans have various reasons. “Giving back to educational causes is important to us,” says Richard. “We hope it also encourages others to give to education as well. Looking back over the course of our careers, we feel we’re not just business entrepreneurs, but social entrepreneurs, and this continues that legacy.”
Renée’s initial interest in education was prompted by her father, who thought it was important for her to have something to fall back on, and she felt that the Master of Education program at Pitt was “perfect for her.” As for Richard, his passion also was propelled through Pitt. As an undergraduate, he joined an organization that offered tutoring in the Hill District neighborhood of Pittsburgh. “I found out I was pretty good with kids and realized that education might be my calling,” he says.
In addition to being prepared through his MEd internship and teaching experience, Richard also met David Champagne, a Pitt professor who became his faculty supervisor as well as a mentor. “We’re still close
friends years later,” Richard says. “There were a series of people here who got us turned on to education and wanting to make it a lifelong career.”
After graduating from the School of Education with his PhD in 1970, Richard joined the school’s faculty. “I worked with professor Lauren Resnick on an early childhood program, which not only piqued my interest in the area but also led to developing a series of preschools that Renée would run.”
Before becoming an entrepreneur with his wife, Richard served on the faculty of the University of Haifa and Kent State University. He also served as dean of the Nova Southeastern University Abraham S. Fischler School of Education in Florida.
While Richard worked as a faculty member, Renée was a preschool director at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh and then at a school in Akron, Ohio. “I really enjoyed working with young children and wanted to be my own boss, so when it came time for us to decide what we were going to do with our lives, I realized I wanted to open a child care center of my own,” she says.
Thus, in 1985, their first entrepreneurial effort was born: Another Generation Preschool. “At that time, quality private preschools were largely nonexistent, and our goal was to create a model for the country,” says Richard. “We used principles as well as teaching models similar to what we learned in Pitt’s programs.” Renée directed the school, which eventually served 1,500 students across seven locations in Florida, making it the 20th-largest preschool operation in the United States.
The couple sold Another Generation in 1997, and around that time, a business partner and friend noted that there was going to be a need for private school education in South Florida due to a booming and increasingly multicultural population. So they founded the Sagemont School, a college preparatory school in Weston, Fla., that was among the first in the nation to establish a laptop program for all of its students. Their son, Brent, who has his doctoral degree in education, is president of the school.
“We started with 23 kids, and by 2013, there were close to 900 students between pre-K and 12th grade,” says Renée. “The school currently educates kids from 100 countries.”
After Sagemont, the Goldmans went on to establish and work with a number of other educational ventures, including the University of Miami Online High School, an online college athlete preparatory high school; Virtual Sage, an online curriculum publishing company; Smart Horizons Career Online Education, the world’s first accredited online school district; and Cengage Learning, which partners with companies, such as McDonald’s or Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., to provide education for its employees. These projects provide online schooling
The Goldmans sign their gift to establish the dean’s chair in the School of Education. to a variety of students, including youth who are incarcerated and adults needing a second chance at completing a high school program.
Today, the Goldmans, both 71, remain busy. Renée is active in volunteer services. She also has received an array of honors, including the Trendsetter award (Richard also received the award) from Florida Trend magazine, Broward County, Fla.’s Businesswoman of the Year award, and recognition by the South Florida Business Journal as a leading woman entrepreneur and as a respected leader in the field of education.
Richard is currently concentrating on his role as chair of the board at Smart Horizons as well as working on Chai Tech, an online program that allows Jewish children from across the country to prepare and plan for their bar and bat mitzvahs. He also returned to the School of Education in 2013 as the graduation ceremony commencement speaker.