Date of Birth: October 23, 1936

Date of Death:

Place of Birth: Detroit, Michigan

Barbara Cora Ettinger Goodman was born October 23, 1936 at Women’s Hospital (Hutzel) in Detroit, daughter of Rose (Cook) and Adolph Ettinger.  She was joined on June 21, 1942 by sister Rochelle (Cookie).  They grew up in an upper flat on Atkinson Street in a Jewish neighborhood in central Detroit.  Barbara went to Brady Elementary, Durfee Intermediate and Central High School, all part of Detroit Public Schools.  The family followed the northwest move of Detroit’s Jewish community and bought a single-family home on Indiana Street in 1954.

While at Central High School, she met her future husband, Paul Goodman.  After graduation, she went to Wayne University (then part of Detroit Public Schools, before becoming Wayne State University in 1956).  She majored in mathematics, minoring in secondary school education, earning a bachelor’s of arts degree in 1957.  While an undergraduate, she worked in the math department and the computer laboratory, which was “state of the art” for its time.  She had her husband were married August 11, 1957 by Milton Arm, associate rabbi at Congregation Shaarey Zedek.

The couple moved to Ann Arbor, where her husband was in his second year of medical school.  Barbara Goodman was hired for a research position in the industrial engineering department of the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering.  At the same time she was conducting the department’s only research program, she also enrolled in its doctoral program, focusing on operations research.  At that time, she was the only female PhD candidate in the College.  Not everyone was happy with her conducting this research: she had little experience, but learned well.  Her research was sponsored by an industrial research group, the Methods Time Measurement (MTM) Association for Standards and Research.  (MTM is a time and motion methodology that sets standard times for performing specific motions.  It enables practitioners to establish standards for different jobs with the goal of improving performance.)  The MTM Association was a large, national group made up of companies applying MTM technology in industrial settings.  Goodman got strong support from her supervisors, James Gage and afterwards Walton Hancock (both professors in the industrial engineering department) and from the executive director of the MTM Association, Richard Stoll.  She attended national MTM meetings (often with 500 attendees) that began, “Gentlemen and Barbara.”  She continued her doctoral research until 1960, pausing it to relocate to Detroit for her husband’s internship at Sinai Hospital.  She fought for her former student assistant, James Foulke, to succeed her and keep the research project going.  Foulke remained at that post until his retirement.

In 1960 Goodman and her husband moved to Santa Rosa Street in northwest Detroit.  On July 27, she gave birth to son, Jeffrey.  At the conclusion of the internship, the family moved back to Ann Arbor, where Paul Goodman started a residency at University of Michigan Hospital.  She found a job with Bendix Corporation.  In August 1961 the Berlin Wall was built.  President Kennedy expanded the army and Goodman's husband was drafted.  He reported to duty July 1, 1962 at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  On August 9, 1962, she delivered her second son, Phillip, at Ireland Army Hospital in Fort Knox.  She found work on base with a research group called Human Resources Research Organization (HumRRO).  Because good childcare was available, she could work part-time.

While in Kentucky, in early 1964 she attended a lecture in Louisville that changed the trajectory of her career.  Professor Ward Edwards, head of the Engineering Psychology Laboratory at the University of Michigan) discussed his research on how people make decisions.  Goodman was captivated and asked to join the research team after her return to Ann Arbor that summer.  And she did, researching the psychological aspects of rational decision-making.  This new research focus encouraged her to move her PhD studies from engineering to mathematical psychology.  Despite accepting her as his student, Edwards was skeptical that a young woman with two small children could meet the challenge, but she earned her PhD in June 1970.  Her doctoral thesis examined the differences in choices made between individuals and groups in various decision-making situations. 

After earning her doctorate, Goodman continued to conduct research at the Engineering Psychology Laboratory, including on gambling choices (developed for Las Vegas casinos) and man-machine systems (developed for NASA).  When Edwards relocated to the University of Southern California at Los Angeles in 1974, Goodman worked as a consultant to a McLean, Virginia company, Decisions and Design, Inc.  She was onsite two days per month, working part-time at home the rest of the time.  She did this for about three years.

In the late 1970’s, Goodman was on the Board of Directors of Congregation Beth Shalom in Oak Park, Michigan.  The synagogue was in the process of expanding women’s roles in congregational activities, including in bat mitzvah celebrations on Saturday mornings, leading services, and reading Torah.  Goodman was a strong voice for women’s full equality in synagogue life.  She was elected president of the congregation in 1981 and served the customary two years.  She was the first woman to do so.

In 1986 Goodman became president of the United Hebrew Schools of Metropolitan Detroit and the Midrasha College of Jewish Studies, which were both transitioned into the Agency for Jewish Education during her time in office.  This change was not without controversy and generated many challenges.  She served until 1988.

From 1984 until 1994 she was on the faculty of the business school of Wayne State University, serving as assistant professor from 1985.  She taught decision-making, executive decision-making, and organizational behavior classes.  In one instance, a student assignment led to the development of technology to assist state governments in allocating funds to social-service clients that might succeed in establishing and maintaining small businesses.  It also served as a guide for highlighting areas in which clients needed improvement to be successful entrepreneurs.   Sales were made to several states, including Virginia, South Dakota, and Pennsylvania.  Goodman gave her share of the model and the business to her former student, Roseanne Herzog Foley, who was a counselor in Michigan’s Department of Rehabilitation Services.

In 2006 Goodman started a consulting firm, Decision Analysis Company, which provided aid to people making choices and management consulting services to small companies experiencing growth.  In 2016 at the age of 80, she retired from professional activities and now devotes herself to home, family, and playing bridge.

In 2018 Goodman was recognized as one of the Eight over Eighty senior citizens by Jewish Senior Life of Metropolitan Detroit, an agency of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.  She was most appreciative of this special award.


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