Two Bradley legends featured in the new building
The idea of teaming up business and engineering has existed at Bradley long before the Business and Engineering Convergence Center.
At last Friday’s dedication ceremony for the convergence center, university president Gary Roberts announced that a painted portrait of Martin “Jerry” Abegg and a bust of Kalman Goldberg will be featured in the new facility. Abegg was Bradley’s seventh president from 1970 to 1992 and a civil engineering professor; Goldberg was the provost from 1987 to 1992 and an economics professor until 2003.
Abegg and Goldberg, “two Bradley legends” as Roberts called them, are among some of the most influential individuals in Bradley’s history. Both joined Bradley as young faculty members around the early 1950s and ultimately became leaders of the institution.
Martin “Jerry” Abegg
Abegg graduated from Bradley University in 1947 and stayed on the Hilltop as an instructor in civil engineering while he pursued his master’s and Ph.D. degrees. Abegg was later promoted to professor, chairperson of the department and dean of the engineering college.
In 1970, when the university found itself in a financial crisis and the board of trustees had to put the then university president Talman Van Arsdale on leave, Abegg was appointed as the acting president, and ultimately became the president for over two decades.
“We had to let go of 30 percent of the faculty within one month, and he had to be the president during that,” said Bob Fuller, professor of religion who has been at Bradley since 1978. “He was the standability that got us through.”
Abegg was known for his listening skills and taking fair actions to solve the problem.
“If [any case] made its way to his office, you will be listened to, everybody will be listened to, everybody will be treated with respect and you will get fair treatment,” Fuller said. “To work for a large institution that you know it’s fair and you are not going to be cheated or screwed … you can trust the place because you can trust him.”
Gary Anna, former senior vice president for business affairs emeritus, worked with Abegg since the early 1980s.
Anna recalled that his first interaction with Abegg was as a senior student at Bradley when he petitioned to Abegg on behalf of some student organizations.
“He did routinely, he attentively listened and took into account what wasn’t our concerns but observations, and then politely thanked us,” Anna said. “It wasn’t a long, long meeting, or emotional one, and he went about and did what he thought he needed to do under the circumstances.”
After taking the post as the president, Abegg recognized the issues in fundraising and hired a rather-young Ian Sturrock as the vice president for development and university relations, and set the university on the right financial path.
“He knew it would be a difficult challenge that if the university was going to have a chance to succeed, then it needed to be more proactive in raising money,” Anna said. “He didn’t particularly like to ask people to give money, but he had good people that he empowered to do that, and he did his fair share so the university had its first successful capital campaign when Dr. Abegg was the president.”
Anna said he believes that today’s convergence center could not be possible without the foundational work done by Abegg.
“[The capital campaign] raised $26 million, followed by another campaign from his successor that raised well over $100 million, followed by another campaign that raised over $150 million … The dedication of the Business and Engineering Convergence Center could not ever occur without more significant fundraising,” Anna said.
Among the many tough decisions that Abegg had to make as the president, one of these was discontinuing the football team at Bradley in the early ’70s.
“Usually that’s a decision that any president wouldn’t last long after making, but it was the right decision at that time even though it did cause a lot of consternation,” Anna said. “Dr. Abegg had other decisions not unlike that, he has always tried to be fair and reaching a decision that he knew he had to be made, even if it’s unpopular.”
Fuller echoed Anna’s point, saying that despite the unpopularity of the decision, “no one doubted his love to Bradley.”
Abegg committed his entire 46-year career to Bradley, 22 of which being the university president, making him one of the longest-serving president of the university.
“When he became the president in ’71, he told his wife that he’d give it a good shot in 10 years and he’d either go back to the faculty or retire. He ended up being president for 20 years. Not 10,” Anna said. “He was always thoughtful, firm … he was just a model of the integrity and direction.”
The portrait of Abegg was painted by Bill Hardin in 1982. Hardin graduated from Bradley in 1950 and is the namesake for the Hardin Circle of Pride. He also painted the portrait for U.S. Rep. Robert Michel, Romeo Garrett, Lydia Moss Bradley and many more that are displayed throughout the campus. The portrait of Abegg won an award from the National Portrait Seminar in Atlanta in 1991.
Goldberg started at Bradley in 1952 as an instructor in economics and was later promoted to professor after he received his Ph.D., then chairperson of the department and dean of the business college.
He was elected University Senate president from 1977 to 1981. Goldberg was named provost in 1987. After stepping down as the provost in 1992, Goldberg continued as a full-time professor until just a few weeks before his death in 2003.
Goldberg’s tenure at Bradley spanned 51 years during which he influenced over half of Bradley’s history and encountered generations of students. Many of his students still remember the “guns and butter” example from his introductory class, and university president Roberts is one of them.
“Dr. Goldberg is the single biggest influence in my life, and the reason I switched my major to economics,” President Roberts said during his speech at the dedication ceremony last Friday. “He taught the ‘Principle of Economics’ to literally generations of students in his famous Econ 100 class.”
Among the faculty, Goldberg was remembered as a great mentor to many.
During an interview with The Scout last semester, Joan Sattler, emerita dean of College of Education and Health Science, reflected that mentors played a huge influence throughout her tenure, Goldberg was one of the great mentors she has encountered. She recalled her first encounter with Goldberg was through her husband, Edward Sattler, after he interviewed for an economics faculty position at Bradley.
“[Edward Sattler] went to the interview and came back and was like ‘oh my gosh, this is so exciting’ and he talked a lot about this one person – again, mentor means a lot I think – it was Dr. Kal Goldberg,” Sattler said.
Beyond the mentorship, Fuller said that during his second year at Bradley, Goldberg asked Fuller to commit to Bradley. And to Fuller, the tab from Goldberg was “the highest honor” ever bestowed upon him.
“We were both going to swim, and he put his arm around my shoulder, and he says ‘Bob, will you pledge your troth to Bradley University? I’d like you to pledge your troth.’ That’s the old expression of getting married … a promise,” Fuller said. “I didn’t respond immediately, but two days later I came back and said ‘I do, and I will.’ And here I am, 42 years later. Because I promised Kal.”
During his time on the University Senate, Goldberg led the effort to form what became the Faculty Handbook today, a document that establishes the shared-governance structure at Bradley.
“The disruptions in the late ’60s, he along with some others, rewrote the charter and made a commitment to the university shared-governance at that time, which is really critical … he was almost like writing the Declaration of Independence back in the day for Bradley University,” Anna said. “He had that gift, he was a marvelous communicator, I mean, just marvelous. Both in written word, but he was an orator and make no mistake about it. And truly an educator.”
During his time as the provost and vice president for academic affairs, Goldberg initiated the study abroad program and supported the formation of the Intellectual and Cultural Affairs Committee to ensure that Bradley was the center of intellectual and artistic expression. He also served as the faculty adviser for the Student Senate, NAACP and Hillel.
“You can take a subject, and Kal, he loved the arts, he loved the symphony in addition to economics backdrop, he could talk intelligently about a whole range of subjects,” Anna said. “In a comprehensive university, that’s what you like and want provost to be able to do. And Bradley has had some awfully good ones and he’s certainly among them.”
Throughout his 51-year tenure, Goldberg never left the classroom. Even as the provost of the university, he still taught one section of his Principles of Economics class every semester. Goldberg continued to teach until his very last day.
The bust of Goldberg is made by Fisher Stolz, Bradley’s associate professor in art. And the bust will be permanently displayed in the atrium of the convergence center.
“I am not sure whether Dr. Jerry Abegg and Dr. Kal Goldberg were creators or creatures of Bradley’s DNA. But anyone wanting a glimpse of ‘Bradley at its best’ need look no further than at these two icons of Bradley’s mission,” Fuller said.