Norma Wynick GOLDMAN was born 30 March 1922 in Pittsburgh, PA, but her family moved to Detroit when Norma was in her teens. The first stage of her lifelong association with Wayne State University (then Wayne University) was completed with her bachelor’s degree (Phi Beta Kappa) in 1944, the same year that she began another lifelong association: a 61-year marriage to Bernard M. Goldman, an art historian. Her 48-year career at Wayne State University was chiefly distinguished by her indefatigable devotion to making Latin as pleasant and culturally enriching a process as possible teaching Introductory Latin, Life in Ancient Rome, and Etymology. In the summers she was a regular fixture at the American Academy in Rome and regularly guided students energetically around the great sites, linking the Latin language, literature and monuments into a seamless story as late as the last summer of her life. Her classroom approach is embodied in her widely used textbook, Latin via Ovid (with Jacob Nyenhius; 1977; 2nd ed., 1982) and its workbook, Practice Practice(with Michael Rossi; rev. ed., 1993) but also in English Grammar for Students of Latin: The Study Guide for Those Learning Latin (2nd ed., 1993). With her colleague Edith M.A. Kovach (1921-2009) she founded the Detroit Classical Association.
She also made a considerable contribution to Roman archaeology. Her friend Cleo Rickman Fitch (1910-95) had joined the archaeological investigations at Cosa, north of Rome in 1962. She had been assigned to catalogue the nearly 1200 terracotta lamps (largely in fragments) existing at the site. Though almost all had been crushed in the various rebuildings of the forum and other parts of the city, Fitch set about carefully cataloguing and expertly drawing the pieces. In 1979 she invited Norma to join her. In the course of her work, Norma even learned the potter’s skills to have a clearer understanding of the craftsmanship that went into the lamps. This indirectly led to her efforts to determine the formula for making Roman concrete, which won her a feature appearance on the BBC’s Nova program about the Colosseum. A quarter century after they began their collaboration, Norma and Cleo published the results of their protracted and exacting labor as volume 39 of the Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome, entitled Cosa: The Lamps (1994). Following Fitch’s death in January 1995, Norma organized a symposium for veterans of the Cosa project, “Lux ex Cosa,” held on 20 May 1995 at the New York offices of the Academy and subsequently published the papers as New Light from Ancient Cosa: Classical Mediterranean Studies in Honor of Cleo Rickman Fitch (Peter Lang, 2001), collecting 11 articles on the topography, history, and archaeology of Cosa and 5 articles on mythology (Helen North), painted plaster (Anne Laidlaw), relief sculpture (Larissa Bonfante), ancient travel (Lionel Casson), and the layout of Alexandria (Blanche Brown). Norma was also noted for developing an interest in the architecture of the places she loved. Her tours of Rome and the Bay of Naples (often for the Detroit Institute of the Arts) were legendary as was her devotion to the Classical Sciety of the American Academy in Rome, which she visited for 31 summers in succession. Her interest in the architectural history of the Academy itself led her to edit (with Katherine A. Geffcken) The Janus View: Essays on the Janiculum (American Academy in Rome: 2007). She also took a special interest in the architect Albert Kahn (1869-1942) and gave tours of his buildings in Detroit.
Norma was also quite skilled with a needle and thread, which she used to her advantage in her study and reproduction of Roman costume. She gave nearly 30 shows of Roman costume at home and abroad, and a video entitled “Let’s Wrap: 1000 Years of Roman Costume” was of enormous value to students preparing for classical plays or pageants or JCL Forums. She published two articles in the definitive work on Roman dress, The World of Roman Costume (U of Wisconsin Press, 1993) and combining her knowledge of archaeology and needle arts, she wrote an article “Reconstructing the Roman Colosseum Awning”Archaeology 35.2 (1982) 57-65, the velarium mentioned by Lucretius, Pliny the Elder, and Vitruvius to shade spectators from the afternoon sun. She looked at the theories of Carlo Fontana (1725) and Luigi Canina (1848), but concluded, as she testified on the Nova program “Secrets of Lost Empires: Colosseum” which appeared on PBS 12 February 1997, that the word velarium comes from the Latin word for sail and sailors from Misenum were stationed near the Colosseum because they “were needed to handle the rope and cloth.” In the same program she explained how Romans used the volcanic sands around the Bay of Naples to make waterproof concrete. She also participated in archaeological digs at Caesarea in Israel and Persepolis in Iran and in her 70s began to practice underwater archaeology.
Back in America, she was President of the Detroit Classical Association, Secretary of the Antiquities at the Detroit Institute of the Arts, and Regional Representative for the Classical Association of the Middle West and South, from which she received an ovatio in 1988. In 2006 she received a Merita Award from the American Classical League. At Wayne State she was given a Distinguished Alumni Award in 1985 and in 1993 she moved to the Department of Interdependency. In 2003 she founded the Society of Active Retirees (SOAR) to help retirees take classes at the university.
Her husband Bernard, who taught art history at Wayne State for 40 years, shared her interest in ancient archaeology and at the time of his death in 2006 he had gathered and annotated the letters of Susan M. Hopkins who, with her husband Clark, comprised half of the original team of archaeologists excavating the site of this Roman outpost in western Asia founded by Greeks in 300 BCE. The site had lain buried until just after World War I and was first excavated between 1928 and 1935. After Bernard’s death Norma completed the manuscript and added 200 illustrations of the site and the archaeologists. My Dura-Europos: The Letters of Susan M. Hopkins 1927-1935, was published in September 2011. Norma Goldman died at the age of 89 on 1 October 2011 in Fountain Hills, Arizona after a yearlong battle with cancer. T. Corey Brennan, Mellon Professor at the Academy said of her passing, “This insistence for seeing antiquity and the modern age as a continuum, and the gift for bringing out the similarities as well as the differences between the Classical and the modern, is just one of the many things for which we all always miss Norma."
— Ward Briggs