Obituary for Nancy Goodman Feldman '46


Nancy Goodman Feldman, who passed away on February 18, 2014 at 91 years of age, was always grateful for the serendipity that ruled her wondrous and adventurous life. To not know what lay ahead was for Nancy an exciting joy, and she embraced it with characteristic optimism, dynamism and abundant energy. Born in Chicago to Benedict and Irene (Kesner) Goodman on October 4, 1922, Nancy’s early life was filled with joy, curiosity, athleticism and scholastic achievement. When a potential spot on the Olympic diving team was jettisoned by a broken back, Nancy honed her academic excellence, taking classes at Northwestern University while still in high school. After two years at Vassar College, she transferred briefly back to Northwestern and, after a serendipitous conversation with her lawyer brother-in-law, enrolled in the University of Chicago Law School. She graduated with a Juris Doctor in 1946 as the top woman in her class of attorneys. Important as these steps were to her life, they pale in comparison to the serendipity of meeting Raymond Feldman, a Tulsan just back from war duty and enrolled at University of Chicago as a second year law student. The two began talking and never stopped. Before they married, Nancy visited Tulsa and was horrified to see segregated bathrooms at the Tulsa train station. Raymond’s response and marriage proposal was “Marry me and change it.” And change it she did. They married in 1946 and made Tulsa their beloved home for 68 years, epitomizing the phrase “…and the two became one”. Nancy arrived in Tulsa at a time when women lawyers were not readily hired. Undaunted, she switched her professional goals and began 37 years of teaching sociology at the University of Tulsa, with invitations to lecture in England, India, Egypt, Israel, Peru and around the United States. While at TU she was chosen by Oklahoma State University to work five years in a “Professors of the City” program, creating the Model Cities Plan for economic and educational development in Tulsa. When a segregated Langston University was reborn as part of what became OSU Tulsa, Nancy taught Langston’s first class and later became board president of Tulsa’s first tax-supported university. While at TU Nancy and another TU professor co-wrote an article about their popular Science, Technology and Society course, a class designed equally for liberal arts majors and for engineers. Serendipitously, the article came to the attention of the National Space Institute, whose members were looking for a humanist on their board. Nancy was unanimously chosen, serving nine years on its Board and Executive Committee, even though, as she delighted in saying, she knew nothing about space. For both Nancy and Ray, making Tulsa their home was about giving back and championing the causes that mattered most to them, which were many. Nancy for more than forty years dedicated her time and creative energy to existing organizations. The five primary beneficiaries have been Family and Children’s Services, local and national Planned Parenthood, Community Service Council, local, national and international Girl Scouts, and the Arts and Humanities Council. When she saw the need she spearheaded the founding of new organizations such as the Tulsa Center for Physically Limited and the Council for International Visitors (now Tulsa Global Alliance). Soon after she arrived in Tulsa she joined in the struggle to break racial barriers, championing human rights and changing inequalities wherever she could. She actively championed three causes of women’s rights and equality as state chairperson of the state’s Commission on the Status of Women, the Oklahoma Civil Liberties Commission and in the effort to get the ERA passed in 1972. In the arts Nancy was the first woman president of a major Tulsa arts organization, Tulsa Ballet, where she wrote its first set of bylaws and helped it grow from a local company into a ballet of international acclaim. A strong believer in the benefit of the arts on a child’s cognitive development, she worked hard for the last fifteen years with the Arts and Humanities Council to infuse the arts into the Tulsa public schools curriculum. Starting at zero there are now arts programs in the curriculum of 55 elementary schools. Yet no one was more surprised than Nancy when a grateful city, state, nation and world began to thank her. Her awards were many, to include Tulsa Area United Way for Women in Leadership (2013), Journal Record honoree: “50 Making a Difference” (2011), League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Tulsa Pathfinders Award (2004), Tulsa Press Club’s Headliner honoree (2002), Governor’s Arts Award (2001), Tulsa Hall of Fame (1998), Women’s Hall of Fame of the State of Oklahoma (1995), and Winifred Cullis Award (British/American) (1974 and 1977). Early in their marriage Nancy and Ray separately played a word game naming 36 words in order of personal importance. Obedience came last for both and, to their surprise, adventure was first. Through the years, they slept in yurts, caves, tree houses and tents as they white-water rafted, bicycled and trekked, and climbed mountains on every continent, completing seven Himalayan treks including Mt. Everest. Their then eight-year-old granddaughter Haley referred to them as “the outdoorables”. Passionate as the most seasoned anthropologists, they spent six months of each of the last forty years with a mantra to experience, not just observe. Tribal cultures and customs drew them to India, China, New Guinea, the Far, Near and Middle East, South America and Africa. As Nancy put it, “a village with four star accommodations was one where there was a designated outhouse.” Nancy’s greatest personal joy was always her three children, Richard Goodman Feldman, Elizabeth Kay (Jingle) Feldman (deceased in 1992) and John Kesner Feldman. She would return from classroom and civic duties to her home, husband and children, and to their exquisite garden that won awards for its gorgeous daffodils, rippling brook and vibrant azaleas. Many a memorable party was held on its spacious lawns and colorful gardens, in the gracious, elegant and fun way in which Nancy, and Ray, loved to give back to family, friends and their beloved causes. For the last 23 years of her life Nancy was devoted grandmother to six grandchildren. Richard and wife Annie were parents to Haley, Jorie and Will, and John and wife Ann were parents to Josh and Jordan, and to Emily Altman. In her mid-eighties Nancy was still skiing and keeping up with all six grandchildren on a Colorado family vacation. Nancy’s life and efforts as Advocate, Achiever, Advisor, Activist, Adventurer and a dozen other Attributes were truly A+. Nancy leaves behind countless family and friends who will miss her deeply and always cherish the serendipity of having been part of her wonderful life.