On the Retirement and Rewirement of Dr. Carla Golden

With this post, we honor and congratulate honors faculty member Dr. Carla Golden as she retires from Ithaca College. Since soon after the launch of the program, her seminars have inspired many students. She guided her students in engaging with critical ideas that pushed them beyond their comfort zone and formed an intellectual community in each seminar. We applaud her devotion to her students and her perpetual drive for teaching.

Please enjoy this heartfelt letter by Dr. Patricia R. Zimmermann in honor of Dr. Carla Golden’s retirement, read at the virtual Senior Celebration on May 19, 2020.

Carla Golden

The Ithacan “Instant facul-Tea – Carla Golden”

On the Retirement and Rewirement of Dr. Carla Golden

By Patricia R. Zimmermann

Dr. Carla Golden is the hardest person to connect with on the Ithaca College campus. And it is NOT because of the global coronavirus pandemic that rerouted all of our lives to our bedrooms and studies at home.

Especially if you are one of her close friends across decades of scandals, political actions, gossip, panels, discussions, and life changes, like I am.

She is hard to hook up with for a reason.

And that reason is Dr. Golden’s dedication to her students here at Ithaca College. And her dedication to the field of Women’s and Gender Studies, a program she has helmed and transformed here at Ithaca College.

In fact, full disclosure: it was not at all easy to get her to this Zoom event because she has been mounting many other Zoom events with her students, even though she has taught her last class forever on this campus, embodied or virtual  She was at one of those Zooms right before this one!

It took a lot of texts and cajoling on my part to yank her away from these students to get her here for this tribute to her decades of enormous and profound contributions to the Honors Program and to Ithaca College and to all of us.

Dedication is probably not the right word, as it sounds like an unbearable cliché  pirated from a popular culture click bait website for how to write a retirement speech for a retiring manager at the Johnson and Johnson Pharmaceutical  company.

Dr. Golden would fiercely critique this word—dedication– interrogating if it was an example of cis-gender, white, global north, hetersexist, classist privilege. If we were embodied, she would come very close to me, look me straight in the eye and say, Patricia, why are you using that word? Defend yourself and explain!

So Dr. Golden is not “dedicated” to her honors students and classes.

She does something much more significant and much less cliched.

Dr. Golden is absolutely and fiercely committed to the idea that intellectual life opens up a space for collective interrogation of every single presupposition or assumption any of us might hold, especially because a heterosexist, white, global north, male-gendered, hidden structure undergirds those presuppositions and assumptions.

She sees her honors seminars as intense, collective, and yes, sacred spaces where these vigorous and rigorous deconstructions can explode. She sees her seminars as places that yank students out of popular culture and neoliberal complacency into the riptides and storms of full engagement in the world of ideas and critique and intellectual community.

Dr. Golden was an early pioneer in our nationally regarded Honors program  here at Ithaca College. She started teaching in Honors in 1999—21 years of tearing students away from the accepted, the cliched, the normalized, and joining them on a journey to go somewhere else where equality and justice must be fought for continually.

She hacked out a path for anti-racist feminist work in seminars such as Sex, Gender, Desire; Human Nature and Culture; and The Cultural Production of Sex, Gender, and Desire.

If you have been her student in one of her legendary groundbreaking seminars, you know her passion for ideas materialized in the amount of time she spends grading your papers and writing voluminous comments on every idea. If you are a former student, you know her magnificent loyalty to alumni where you  transformed from students who get pages of comments to a friend who gets pages of emails.

Dr. Golden’s life, of course, exceeds her passions for teaching and for students.  She is a gourmet cook of cuisines from Korea, India, Mexico, Malaysia, Thailand, France, Morocoos, Lebanon, Syria.  She hikes. She bikes. She is one of the best Kremlin watchers of American politics and academic shenangins I know, a mix of gossip and intel and gusto. She has never missed a demonstration or political action on our campus or in the Ithaca community. She is a glorious friend and sister in arms.

I had a long phone call with her a few days ago, as I wanted to congratulate her on teaching her last class for her last seminar.

It was not easy to get her on the phone. She was busy grading, talking to students, Zooming, and, much to her surprise, overwrought with emotion cascading around and through her.  She told me, and I quote, because I wrote it down so she would not yell at me today, “I am consumed by teaching.  I did it well.  Nothing I do in my life form this point on will ever be this significant or impactful.”

Congratulations, Dr. Golden, from all of us in the Ithaca College Honors Program, on your retirement and your rewirement into a new life.

Two decades of students and colleagues in Honors have been spurred to move beyond themselves by your example of being totally consumed by pedagogy and ideas. You brilliantly and passionately understand  the urgency of people gathered in a class or on Zoom to tear apart the unknown and the oppressive to build something new, together.

Brava!