When Richie Goldman RC’72 was an English major at Rutgers, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. His father expected him to run the family hardware store, but Goldman loved the literature courses he was taking—on Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Faulkner—and found advertising fascinating, “how it motivated consumers to do things,” he says.
“Rutgers didn’t offer many advertising courses then, but the university did encourage you to check out other things,” says Goldman. “So, I felt like I had a green light to do an independent project.” His senior year culminated in a paper he wrote entitled “The Psychology of Television Advertising,” an idea that stayed with Goldman after he indeed left the family business and moved to Houston, Texas. There, he invested what little money he had in the fledgling Men’s Wearhouse, known today for its TV ads in which the company’s founder intones: “You’re going to like the way you look. I guarantee it.”
Goldman helped develop those ads and build a nationwide business of more than 1,200 stores. Today, retired and the father of two, he is concentrating on helping a new generation find its place in life. His book, Luck by Design: Certain Success in an Uncertain World (Morgan-James Publishing, 2009), was written for 18- to 35-year-olds. He has also donated time and money to Rutgers, which asked him how he’d like the university to use his $300,000 gift.
“Doug Greenberg [executive dean of the School of Arts and Sciences] suggested the idea of these Signature Courses,” he adds, “and I said, ‘That’s perfect.’”
Introduced in fall 2009, the courses, which now number 10, tackle contemporary global issues by incorporating a variety of subjects. “War: Critical Perspectives,” for example, explores how the “war on terror” has affected migration, international relations, and the culture of the United States. Other courses delve into the issues of social policy, the environment, and health, with each Signature Course taught by a distinguished instructor and complemented by a discussion led by graduate students. “Our aim is to create courses of such depth and power that the best undergraduate students in the state and the country will enroll here just to be able to take them,” says Greenberg RC’69.
Available to first-year students and sophomores, the courses are multidisciplinary takes on 21st-century challenges, something that Goldman did in his own way as a student. “And when I look at some of these,” he says of the Signature Courses offered, “I think, ‘I’d like to take one.’”
Originally published in Rutgers alumni magazine. Photography by Seamus Vanecko.