Pete Goldsmith said it was a gift the “43-year saga” of his career in higher education and student affairs ended at IU, his alma mater.
Goldsmith retired after nine years serving as the dean of students June 30.
He returned to IU in 2009 with a bachelor of arts in government and ROTC training from IU, a masters of education in student personnel administration from American University and a doctorate in higher education administration from IU under his belt.
But Goldsmith said he was mainly excited to fill the shoes of his mentor Dr. Robert H. Shaffer, who was dean of students during Goldsmith’s undergraduate years at IU.
“The chance to come back and sit in the seat he occupied, it felt like a full circle,” he said.
The Dean of Students Office has received numerous awards under the direction of Goldsmith, including the Institutional Award of Excellence from the Association for Student Conduct Administration. Goldsmith himself received IU’s Department of Student Affairs and Higher Education Shafer Award during his tenure.
Goldsmith said he first found his passion for student affairs during his time at American University.
After completing ROTC from IU in 1968, he was commissioned by the Army and spent two years in service, the final year serving overseas in Vietnam.
Goldsmith said he performed civic action work during his time in Vietnam, working with orphanages and villages to improve peoples’ conditions and put them more at ease with the soldiers’ presence there.
Upon returning to the United States, Goldsmith said he thought he would be interested in a degree in International Relations so he would continue that work.
He had already been a residential assistant in McNutt at IU, he said, and took a job in the residence halls at AU to pay the bills.
“What became quickly apparent was that I was enjoying what I was doing in the residence halls a whole lot more than what I was doing in my academic classes,” Goldsmith said. “They wanted to talk about theories of peace and war, and I wanted to talk about clean water and roofs over peoples’ heads and basic security.”
Goldsmith then set his sights on student affairs and higher education, but he said being a Vietnam veteran still put a special place in his heart for veterans.
“It changes everybody,” he said. “But I think mostly it makes me appreciative. I’m so happy the veterans are in a much different place than they were out of that experience.”
Goldsmith said he became interested in the Golden Book Project during his career at IU. The project’s aim is to add more names to the Golden Book, the roster of sons and daughters of Indiana who have served in the wars of the Republic housed in the IMU. The physical record currently ends at World War II.
During his time here, Goldsmith said the book has been digitized and more names have been added digitally. The next phase is the creation of a website that will be university-wide to access the book and add more names, he said.
Goldsmith has also served as a major proponent for the Culture of Care program, a student-initiated movement originated in the Dean’s Advisory Committee with whom he met regularly.
“The underlying idea was that students needed to take better care of each other,” he said. “I think that’s a very visible way in which we’re trying to make the environment safer and better for students.”
More recently, Goldsmith said he has advocated for resources for more prevention training and a new staff member for the program.
He said projects in student affairs such as Culture of Care are easy to get behind when the students themselves are passionate about them.
“When students are excited about a project or a program, just trying to help make that happen, help facilitate that is very exciting because it helps them kind of pursue that passion but it also improves the educational experience and helps the (university) environment,” he said.
Looking back at his career in student affairs, Goldsmith said he hopes he has done what he could to be a part of the continuum of support and care for students.
“The role of student affairs is to help students — to help them succeed, to help them solve problems, to kind of enrich their education with experience,” he said. “So that’s what my mission has been. I hope I have been able to do that in some ways big and small.”
After retiring, Goldsmith said he and his wife plan to stay in Bloomington. He said they might go to cultural and sporting events for the University, but he wants to stay out of the way for the new dean of students.
Goldsmith’s dog gave him a biography of George Washington for Father’s Day, he said, and his wife got him the Tower of London Lego set, complete with 4,237 pieces.
“I think they’re worried about what I’m going to do with my time,” he said. “That’s a good place to start.”