Roy's Marvelous Adventure

Contributed By Greg Goodale

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Roy Rosenzweig cannot die and as long as his students live, he will not die. I am one of his students and I carry a lot of Roy Rosenzweig with me everywhere I go. It was Roy’s book, The Park and the People, that inspired me to return to college. Little did I know when I applied to the history department at George Mason that Roy was on the faculty, that I would get to work with him as a student and as a researcher, and that my life would be profoundly changed not only by the book, but also and moreso by the man.

My years at George Mason were the best of my life because of the collegiality created by the faculty, the staff, and my fellow students. I remember being petrified the first time I went to meet Larry Levine in his office. I diverted my eyes from the great scholar by looking over to a picture of Lou Gehrig that hung from Larry’s wall. Larry knew I was nervous and found common ground by talking about how much his father looked up to Gehrig because the great Yankee first baseman went to work every day without complaint, just like all the working guys in New York who were trying to do right by their families. I often went back to Larry’s office after that, and not to look at Lou Gherig.

But I remember Roy most of all. He welcomed everyone into his great adventure. He was like the captain of a raft: “here’s an oar” I can imagine him saying, “and I’ll teach you how to use it.” Then he would inspire you to want to paddle, hard, up that river of knowledge. I’ve never known a scholar so enthusiastic about his craft. And I’ve never known anyone whose enthusiasm for anything was as contagious. With Roy, one wanted to stay with him forever to explore every nook and cranny that ever appeared on the face of the earth. You get that sense when you read The Park and the People. And you got that sense when you took his classes or worked at his Center. No voyage undertaken by Lewis & Clark or by John Glenn could possibly have been as rewarding or as interesting as the adventures that Roy led.

As humans, we summarize our lives in moments that stand for larger ideas or episodes. Life is too long to remember everything, so these moments stand in for feelings, people, experiences, impressions, years…. The two and a half years that I worked with the extraordinary teachers, staff, and students at George Mason are summarized in one of these moments. I remember walking with Roy from the Pohick Module to the history department office. The Center had just received a telephone call that Larry was back from California and on the walk over to Robinson Hall, Roy was happy, excited, and anxious. Well he was always a little like that. But that day, he was really like a kid on his birthday. Larry was still in the reception area when we arrived and Larry and Roy, two of the brightest minds, two of the greatest scholars, and two of the most inspiring teachers in the field of history gave each other a big hug. That moment summarized my years at George Mason: scholarship, inspiration, and humanity.

Roy is not dead. Larry is not dead. As long as their students produce revolutionary scholarship, and send the next generation of students on wonderful journeys, and treat others with great humanity, Roy and Larry live on. And so, Roy’s marvelous adventure continues.

Thank you Roy.