May 13, 2020

Remembering Dr. Eli Velder, Ph.D., Faculty Emeritus

To view the recording of our May 7, 2020 Remembrance Hour for Dr. Eli Velder, click here.

In addition, please enjoy the written memories shared below.

“As a high school senior, I met Dr. Velder in 1991 when he was part of a faculty team interviewing prospective candidates for the new Dean's Fellowship merit scholarship program that was going into effect for 1991-1995. He had a tremendous effect on me.  He radiated humanity and genuine interest, even though I was someone who had just randomly been randomly assigned to him to interview.  When I won a Dean's Fellowship, he called me to congratulate me. To this day, I don't know if other faculty interviewers involved in the program did that, but it impressed me deeply. I actually never had a class with Dr. Velder during my Goucher years, but I dropped by his office sometimes and he showed great interest in my education and plans for the future. He was one of several Goucher professors who encouraged me to pursue an academic career, which is what I have successfully done. It was actually not until I was doing doctoral research a few years later that I discovered how instrumental a role he had played at Baltimore Hebrew University (as it was then) as well as at Goucher. He was a magnetic person who changed many lives for the better.”

-Dr. Melissa R. Klapper ’95

“He was a kind man. He reminded me of my father's generation of first generation American Jews from the Depression Era: gentlemen who worked really hard and generously gave out advice to other Jews who needed it. He approved my study abroad in Israel. It was comforting to work with Dr. Velder after my father passed away my freshman year of Goucher.”

-Lillian Bockian '09

“The news of Eli’s passing has filled me with great sense of sadness and personal loss since we had become good friends in those 60 years that we both taught at Goucher and through retirement.  My deepest and most sincere condolence goes to Ruth and David and family.

When I joined the Goucher faculty in 1959, Eli was a part time instructor but soon became full time. Faculty scuttlebutt circulated questioning whether an orthodox jew and a former pilot oft he Luftwaffe could work together. However, contrary to such dire predictions, we quickly became trusting and supporting colleges, thanks to Eli’s open-mindedness and tolerance. He accepted me without any recrimination and become my model and I often turned to him for guidance. For a number of years Eli and I taught a class together. Eli was a truly superb teacher. I was especially impressed by his question asking skills. His questions made you think. That was especially true in class, but also in meetings and in private conversation. Eli was also a scholar, while I was struggling with cancer surgery, he helped me greatly by rewriting the chapter “Lawrence Kohlberg’s Cognitive Developmental Approach to Adolescent Morality” in order to help me make the deadline for the 6th edition. Our friendship extended beyond the college and included our families.  He introduced me to Jewish food; my wife bought Kosher meat when he eat in our house. Eli and his children joined me and my children for sailing at Middle River. Each year in the middle of October we set one day apart for a trip through the fall colors of northern Baltimore County with lunch at  Manor Tavern. We shared a lot of interests, both of us were interested in operas and attended performances here in Baltimore. Later he and Sahava joined me for CD opera performances in my apartment. In our conversations, the topic of Richard Wagner came up. Eli despised Wagner’s anti-semitic writing to the extent that he did not care to see his operas. As time went on his attitude slowly changed, he maintained that one ought to separate Wagner’s political thinking from his music. Eventually he suggested that I show my favorite Wagner opera: “Die Meistersinger von Nuernberg,” which surprisingly he enjoyed greatly. Subsequently, he actually requested to see the entire “Ring.”  The “Goetterdaemerung” was scheduled, but at that time, health and transportation issues made it difficult for him to visit me. I still visited and phoned him to the end.

I cannot overestimate the influence Eli has had on me. I will miss him and often ask myself what would Eli say or have done. He was truly a Mensch, an unsurpassed teacher and professor and a good friend.  He had a sense of humor, made you feel at ease. I will miss him.”

-Dr.Rolf Muuss, Faculty Emeritus

“I never had Dr. Velder as a professor, but I certainly knew who he was.  I have a very strange memory of him.  As a Jew, I wanted to celebrate Purim one year, dressed as a rabbi (a male rabbi).  I went to Dr. Velder and asked if I could borrow his academic robe for my costume and he agreed.  I wore it and using eyebrow pencil, darkened my eyebrows and drew a beard on my face.  Not sure where I got the tallit (prayer shawl).  I also pinned up my hair under a yalmuke (kipa or skullcap).  Somewhere I have a photo of myself and my "Wife" who was a male student from Johns Hopkins.  I was very impressed that Dr. Velder was so kind to me even though I was not one of his students and have always remembered his thoughtfulness.  Don't know if he knew it but I actually became a rabbi, ordained in 1981 from Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion and now have my own robe (which I rarely use.)”

-Sara Rae Perman '73

“Dr. Velder was my adviser and mentor. It amazes me to think about how he related to me, a 17 year old girl, with no problem. I fought for a great recognition of Jewish life on campus, in the form of kosher food for those who needed it. He encouraged me and it was a project brought to fruition in my sophomore year. Dr. Velder's presence had a huge impact on my years at Goucher because of his humor, gentleness and encouragement. Yehi Zichro Baruch--May his memory be a blessing for all of us.”

-Sharon Rottman ’78

“I remember my first class in secondary education taught by Dr. Velder. He told us something that remained with me during my two years of "formal" teaching (seventh grade English and Social Studies in New Jersey and Michigan) and other times when I organized educational seminars as the executive director of bar associations in Maryland and the District of Columbia. Dr. Velder said he could not have taught in Maryland because he didn't have the necessary credits as an undergraduate but that we should try different approaches until we found one that worked for us. Wise words from a wise man.”

-Linda (Gold) Cangin Bennett '63, Goucher Management Institute ’79

“Dr. Velder was an excellent education professor; I feel honored to have had him in my education training. I was thrilled to see him when I came to teach at Goucher. He was an inspirational professor!

-Elizabeth Leik, former instructor, MFA ’99

“Dr. Velder was my advisor at Goucher. He was one of the very first people I met on campus and one I remained in touch with over my four years. My first year, I was a part-time, commuter student due to health reasons.  Being at Goucher was actually a last minute decision for me, and I wasn’t all that happy not being allowed to live on campus (my parents and Hopkins doctors had concerns). Dr..Velder knew of my issues and would joke with me when I needed a laugh. He was a great listener and very wise as well.  I was a math major, and I never had time to take an education class.  But I knew Dr. Velder like he was one of my own professors. He was one of the reasons I continued at Goucher full time, on campus.  He was one of the reasons I recovered.  My interaction with Dr. Velder wasn’t numerous in quantity, but each time we connected, he etched a place in my heart. I’m so glad I could have him in my Goucher experience. I will never forget him and how his small acts of kindness made the biggest impact in my life.”

Fondly, Debbie Bergman Kostyo ’90

“Dr. Velder was both my favorite professor and a mentor to me during my undergraduate years at Goucher. He was a true educator in all ways and inspired me to devote my career to working with middle schoolers, first as a history teacher and later as Professional School Counselor. He had so much knowledge and wisdom to share in the courses he taught, and his door was always open. He was ready to listen, talk, provide guidance, and just be the friendly face his students needed as we faced the challenges of college and career.

-Ann Kappell Danner ’76

“Dr. Velder was such a kind-hearted person. He was also a fantastic story-teller with a great sense of humor. I always enjoyed his class and looked forward to it.”

-Heather Steven ’05

“I took a required upper-class education course from Dr. Velder during one winter (1965 I think).  The course began at 8 AM--not a time favored by students or professors. I was a commuting student and observed with some envy the women who lived in the dorms and came to class in their nightgowns or pj's covered by a raincoat. Every morning as Dr. Velder started his lecture, he spent a minute or so commenting on how early the class time was, how cold it was, how uncomfortable it was to get up while it was still dark, how could we stand it, and various other complaints that let us know he wasn't up for it either. After a few days of this, just as Dr. Velder was beginning to speak, a student in the front row voiced her objections. She said that it was bad enough to get to this early class, but that Dr. Velder was making it worse by complaining about it! Dr. Velder looked chastised and said he would stop making the comments. This worked for several days until finally he said, "Look, I give you permission to come in a few minutes late, but I HAVE to complain about this hour. So come in later, after I am finished."

-Marlene Feldman Shapiro ’66

“Dr. Velder was a role model for everyone. He was a positive, kind, and gracious person. His presence made you feel good about the world. He was a great scholar and professor. He displayed tremendous knowledge of his subject and was always patient and encouraging to his students. I still remember the books I read in a course he taught on the history of education which included the writings of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Horace Mann, and Henry Adams. Dr. Velder was also a scholar of the Jewish faith. As a high school student, I took a Sunday class on the book of Jonah, which he taught. We studied the text in English and Hebrew. The course was given at the Baltimore Hebrew University which is now part of Towson University. Thirty years after I graduated from Goucher and he was still teaching, my husband was pursuing his second career as a special education teacher at Goucher. Dr. Velder was teaching in the program and my husband took a course in the philosophy of education. He became an immediate fan of Dr. Velder. He said it was the best course he took at Goucher!  My husband and I were both very fortunate to have had Dr. Velder as our professor. In recent years, I occasionally ran into Dr. Velder around town. He told me he thought my husband was a good writer. I was very impressed. This was a great compliment and showed how Dr. Velder cared about each of his students and took the time to carefully read their work. I saw Dr. Velder a couple of years ago. The years had taken their toll and he had an assistant, but still he smiled at me just as he had when I first met him as a teenager. I said I hadn't seen him in a while. He joked that he had been hiding. And, I joked back that he should come out of hiding more often!! He was not only a tremendous scholar but a very great man. Of the great and righteous people in the Torah, he can easily be compared to Moses--a great teacher, leader, scholar, and the humblest of human beings. May his memory be a blessing to us all.”

-Ruth Berman ’78

“I remember Dr. Velder as an educator who had a natural connection with all his students. Never sharp or judgmental, Dr. Velder shared his vast experience and knowledge and encouraged students to engage and respond. I always felt at ease and welcome in his education class, even though I took the class as a middle-aged adult. Dr. Velder encouraged us to be as educated as possible in every academic area. I recall him telling us he graduated from Johns Hopkins where Dr. Velder excelled at calculus. Truly an educated man, Dr. Velder was a credit to Goucher and will be missed by his students.”

-John Messina ’11

“The early 1970s were a turbulent time to be a college student, even at relatively sedate Goucher College. Dr. Velder was not just a mentor to me; it felt to me that he was almost a surrogate parent. My ideas and values were taking shape during those years, and were often at odds with my own parents. Dr. Velder was so much more than just my Education professor. He offered me calm in the storm. I spent hours in his office discussing a wide range of topics and he was always a friendly and sage listener and counsel.

I was a History major at Goucher, and a top student. My History professors actually encouraged me to do something other than teach, which seemed odd to me coming from people who had chosen that career path. But I got the fire to teach from Dr. Velder, and forged ahead. I became a high school History teacher upon graduation.

That specific form of teaching did not last for me, but I have used my teaching skills in almost every aspect of my life since, through several disparate careers and volunteer commitments. I owe those skills and much of my success to what I learned in those formative years from Dr. Velder.”

-Janet Jameson Berger ’74

“My condolences to Dr. Velder's family and friends. As a Goucher student, I served with Dr. Velder on the Curriculum Committee 1976-77. He was very witty and made the meetings very interesting. He had a brilliant mind and a special ability to see Goucher educational future. He cared deeply about education, especially a Liberal Arts education. He will be missed!”

-Talia R. Sheridan ’77

“Dr. Velder is the reason I chose Goucher. On Admitted Students Day the spring of my senior year, I sat on in Dr. Velder's Issues in Education course. I knew from that moment that Goucher was my place. I knew it in my bones. I knew that one day I would be sitting there, like those juniors and seniors, conversing and joking with one of the most intelligent and compassionate people I have ever met. I went on to be an Education minor and had the privilege of taking History of Education and Issues in Education with Dr. Velder, two of the most impactful courses of my college career. I am grateful to Goucher, as it is where I met my fiancé, also named Eli, whom I am about to marry.”

-Emily Waife ’16