page header with two pictures of richard goldstein and the text richard goldstein, 1934-2023

Remembering Richard Goldstein (1928-2023)

Richard Goldstein
(March 27, 1928 - March 6, 2023)

Renowned mechanical engineer and educator Richard J. Goldstein passed away on March 6, 2023, at age 94. He came to the University of Minnesota Mechanical Engineering Department in 1950 to study for a master’s degree, eventually earning a PhD and then joining the faculty in 1961. In all, Goldstein was a part of the department — whether as a graduate student, faculty member, or researcher — for nearly 70 years.

Goldstein was an active member of the department, serving as professor, researcher, and department head. He advised 74 doctoral and 82 master’s students, and was still advising students at the time of his death. His work in heat transfer took him all over the world and led to more than 300 publications. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1985 “for his outstanding contributions in heat transfer measurement techniques and in film cooling, leading to improved efficiency of gas turbines.”

In addition to his work, Goldstein was a beloved husband, father, and grandfather, an avid traveler, and a solar eclipse chaser, among other varied interests. 

Goldstein’s funeral service was held on Wednesday, March 8, at Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park. Shiva was held at his home the following week. In lieu of flowers, his family requests that memorials be sent to the Minneapolis Jewish Federation.


Vinod Srinivasan
Goldstein definitely liked to travel, and encouraged his students to seek out experiences as well, especially when they were international students who likely knew little about the geography of the US. Whenever I returned from a trip to a national park, he would ask me which spots within the park I had visited, and whether I had encountered things from his past visits. He would also tell us how that place looked 50 years ago, gently teasing us for how young we were. 

I also fondly remember going out on the lake from his lake house and firing prototypes of potato launchers that were eventually used in thermodynamics classes. The graduate students would get nerdy and try to see how much the angle of inclination changed the range. 

Of course the biggest impact was professional. He followed his students' careers with great interest (especially if they were academics), always nominating them for awards and advising them about what they should be doing at different stages. Whether he had some insightful way of choosing his graduate students, or whether he developed them into successful academics is not clear — but the number of scholars who were his advisees is so large that conferences on entire subjects can be filled up with just his students. 

Max Donath
Life trajectories are tricky. Who could have predicted where I would be now, way back in 1977 when Richard Goldstein took me under his wing and convinced me to come to Minnesota. 

I was the first faculty member that Dick Goldstein hired in 1977, arriving in March 1978 to teachmachine design that spring quarter. I came a few days late as my wife and I were driving cross-country from Boston and a winter blizzard had closed down the highways in Pennsylvania.

The initial offer to join the ME Department as an assistant professor was extended by Richard Jordan, the previous department head, but I felt that I wasn’t going to sign on with a department without knowing who was to be my future boss. I came out to meet Professor. Goldstein, who had just been appointed department head, and was suitably impressed. He was warm and enthusiastic about my coming and made me feel that our relationship would be a positive one. Had Dick Goldstein not been department head back in 1977, when I needed to make this important life-changing decision, I would not have come to Minnesota. I had multiple job offers from other highly ranked ME departments across the country. True to his word, Goldstein was always supportive through the stressful promotion and tenure process as I moved through multiple promotions to finally become a full professor in 1990.

It was in 1997, when he stepped down as department head, that I took over as Director of the University of Minnesota’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Institute, a congressionally designated University Transportation Center. He was very supportive of my changing professional direction from a “traditional” professor to research center leadership. Again, without his encouragement, I might not have made that transition.

I will always be grateful to Dick for his leadership and guidance. He will be missed.