“All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.” (As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII)
Thus speaks melancholy Jacques in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, whose distinguishing characteristic is his unmitigated cynicism. Provost and vice-president (academic) Dr. Noreen Golfman has little in common with this man (though she thinks Shakespeare “rocks”), who sets no value in anything.
But even a cursory glance at Dr. Golfman’s history reveals an individual who exited and entered her parts with style, and who takes a final exit from her administrative leadership duties on April 30.
‘At first the infant . . .’
Dr. Golfman was born in Montreal in 1952. Sadly, we can’t return to Montreal in 1952.
‘And then the whining-school boy . . .’
Dr. Golfman completed her undergraduate degree at McGill University and still remembers her first day—what she wore, how she did her hair.
She was very nervous, worried about how to relate to professors, how to fill her time, who she would eat lunch with, whether university would be the right fit.
Clearly it was a perfect fit, but it was not without its pitfalls.
She was fired from her first student summer job, selling subscriptions to the Montreal Gazette.
She didn’t sell one.
“I was called every curse term under the sun, some of which I had never heard of or ever imagined to be physically possible,” Dr. Golfman recalled.
A salesperson she wasn’t.
But she did have a passion for English and film studies. She’s been following those passions ever since.
She is proud of her BA in English, a discipline that “still teaches texts written long before the invention of the cellphone—or the toilet.”
‘Then the lover . . .’
Dr. Stephen Bornstein, Dr. Golfman’s husband of more than 20 years, may be her perfect partner, but has not always offered perfect professional advice.
When asked if she should take on various leadership roles over the years, his answer was “Nah. I don’t think so.”
Fortunately, she stopped asking. Still, she admits he is the love of her life, proudly proclaiming at her installation as provost that he is her “best friend, true love, continual inspiration, favourite partner and cherished soulmate.”
‘Then a soldier, full of strange oaths . . .’
Dr. Golfman came to Memorial in 1984 as an English professor, describing her first day on campus as “pretty scary, somewhat disorienting and largely overwhelming.”
She dazzled students for the next three decades with her fierce intelligence, breadth and depth of knowledge and unwavering commitment to inspiring students to do more, be better, aim higher.
One former student who took her courses in film studies and critical theory says she was instrumental in his success in his academics, his love of film and ultimately his career as a teacher.
Not so much his exercise.
While he was running on the track one day in the Field House, Dr. Golfman told him he should try her aerobics class.
He did only one and said he barely survived it.
Dr. Golfman was also responsible for establishing the MUN Cinema Series, a not-for-profit film series that shows critically acclaimed films once a month at the Avalon Mall.
We’re fairly certain any Joan Crawford film (one of her favourite femme fatales) would make the cut, particularly Mildred Pierce.
‘Then the justice . . . full of wise saws and modern instances . . .’
Dr. Golfman took on the role of dean of the School of Graduate Studies in 2008.
Such was her success as dean that it was no surprise when she became provost pro tempore in 2014, an appointment made permanent in 2015.
Dr. Danine Farquharson, associate dean, School of Graduate Studies, first met Dr. Golfman in 1991 when she began graduate school at Memorial.
The thing she remembers most about Dr. Golfman was that she was wearing a fabulous pair of earrings. Some things never change.
As Dr. Farquharson recalled, “Over the next 29 years, Noreen taught me in grad seminars, supported me as graduate officer in English, supported me as I moved from my PhD into my first tenure-track appointment, supported me as I returned to Memorial as a faculty member, supported me as I was trying to decide whether or not to try my hand at an administrative position—associate dean of grad studies, a chair that she sat in before becoming dean.
“It’s been a twisty and unexpected career for me, but the one thing that I always knew in my hearts of hearts is that Noreen was there, always there to talk to, to discuss, to support, to challenge, to shame my fashion choices. That’s Noreen Golfman for me. And I’m not unique. There are many who know her the same way.”
‘The sixth age shifts into the lean and slipper’d pantaloons, with spectacles on nose and pouch on side . . .’
With spectacles on her nose and many fewer meetings to preside over, Dr. Golfman can enjoy her sixth age travelling to Spain, Italy or France.
She can enjoy gardening, cooking and Netflix.
She can continue to give Jane Fonda a run for her money.
And she can dream about the ultimate dinner party with guests George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Leonard Cohen.
‘Last scene of all that ends this strange eventful history is second childishness and more oblivion . . .’
Dr. Golfman, we hope you enjoy the freedom of a second childhood that comes with shedding the cloak of responsibility.
An institutional event to salute Dr. Golfman is not feasible at this time, so her contributions will be recognized at a later date.
Dr. Vianne Timmons, president and vice-chancellor, has worked with Dr. Golfman over the past several months as she prepared to assume the role of president.
“I want to thank Dr. Golfman for the support she provided me in taking on this new role,” said Dr. Timmons.
“What I’ve learned in my short time here is that she is a bit of legend and has certainly left her mark both in the English department and in Graduate Studies. I wish her all the best as she begins a new chapter (or should that be a ‘new age?’) in her life.”
Iris Petten, chair of the Board of Regents, added her thanks, as well.
“I want to say how appreciative we are as a board and as a community for her years of dedication to Memorial, as a professor, dean and provost,” Ms. Petten said. “For more than 30 years she has given so much to our university and we are a better place for it.”
Past president Dr. Gary Kachanoski accomplished a lot at the university with Dr. Golfman as, in her own words, his “work-wife.”
“Noreen provided exceptional leadership during her time as provost and vice-president (academic), and previously as dean of the School of Graduate Studies,” he said. “Her passion and dedication to Memorial and its extended communities were evident and much appreciated in all of her work. I thoroughly enjoyed working with her and wish her all the best in her future endeavours.”
Perhaps he would add the highest accolade he is known to give, one noted by Dr. Golfman at his good-bye celebration.