peggy goldberg2019 Exceptional Faculty Award Winner - Peggy Goldberg

The man hovered on the precipice of death. His family gathered in the intensive care unit, yearning to help in these final days. But what to do? Nurses called for a therapy team and Peggy Goldberg responded. The family said he always loved dogs.

Goldberg arrived with her dog, Katie. Nurses pushed an empty hospital bed next to the man’s and they placed Katie on top. “He was almost comatose, completely non-communicative,” Goldberg recalled. “Then Katie put her head down next to him and he moved his hand and put it on her head. The family was in tears.”

Goldberg has made a career of supporting people during their time of need. After earning her bachelor’s in psychology from Evergreen State College in 1978, she took ownership of Olympia’s Radiance Herbs and Massage. “I was wishing there was a place women could go for a massage,” she recalled. “At the time, massage parlors mostly meant prostitution. Then someone introduced me to Radiance.”

She got her license in massage therapy and used her expertise to help people relieve stress and rejuvenate. It was a positive experience, although she did have to remove the occasional uninformed miscreant. “We used to answer the phone, “Radiance Herbs and Massage, we do strictly therapeutic non-sexual massage,” she said with a laugh. “There were a dozen times I had to ask men to leave.”

When it was time for a change, Goldberg went back to school. She earned her master’s degree in counseling from the Leadership Institute of Seattle then established a private practice. She soon found herself treating college students for eating disorders. “I loved working with that age group,” she said.

Wanting to do more, Goldberg did an informational interview with Paul Mitchell at Centralia College.  “He told me it was almost impossible to get a job as a counselor at a community college,” she said.

With this in mind, she went back to school at St. Martins, earning her K-12 counselor certification so she could get a high school counseling position. But, right after finishing the program, a part time position opened up at Grays Harbor Community College.

Instead of working with youth, however, the position focused on dislocated workers. When a part time job working with Running Start students opened at Centralia College, Goldberg jumped at the opportunity.  She held both positions until a full time opportunity arose at Centralia College. Two decades later, she’s never looked back. “I’ve loved it since day one,” she said. 

Goldberg especially enjoys working directly with students. “I love how their eyes get opened, especially living in a smaller rural community,” she said. “They get exposed to so much at the college, it really expands their world. I love watching that develop.”

Her own unique history is a powerful educational tool. “I have a different path than a lot of people and I brought that to the table,” she said. “My role here is about education and the future. We talk about being smart about life and experimenting with life, too. I love watching their world open up here. They’re like blooming flowers. Some lose a few petals along the way, but that’s part of it. My skills and experience with personal counseling are interwoven in the work I do with my students.”

Goldberg enjoys working with the college’s Running Start students. “I love our program here,” she said. “We used to have state Running Start meetings and everyone would envy our program because we had dedicated Running Start counselors. We are able to provide a very comprehensive service to our students.” 

Guiding Running Start students offers many challenges. For some, the program is an excellent fit right away. Others attain a higher level of achievement by attending classes at the high school. Goldberg helps each student find the right path for them. “I really love the students,” she said. “I feel honored to be part of their journey and help them be successful through all areas of college.”

Goldberg received a particularly touching letter from one Running Start student’s mother, who thanked her for seeing each child as an individual and helping them find their own unique path. “I didn’t have kids,” Goldberg said with a smile, “but now I have 150 of them each year.”

When Goldberg earned the Exceptional Faculty Award, it came as a complete surprise. “I don’t create amazing big things,” she said, “I just love working with my students. I attempt to find what’s best for them, help them find their path, and I’m here for them when they need me.”

Centralia College Foundation Executive Director Christine Fossett said, “Working with Running Start students, their parents, the high schools and the college departments makes Peggy’s job a daily juggling act and she is stellar at balancing the demands. Her dedication to assisting the students and advising them, not only on classes but on their personal readiness and goals, helps them move toward success. Her base of strong relationships with the various Running Start partners and her ready assistance to student groups makes her exceptional and a recipient that the committee and Foundation board are proud of.”

Goldberg blends her passion for counseling and animal assisted therapy by bringing therapy dogs to campus during finals and giving special class presentations with her dog, Dewey. “Dog night is the most crowded study night for finals in the library,” she said. “The energy changes in a room when a dog walks in. Animals can really help decrease stress and students bond around them. They bring people together.”

Goldberg loves giving back to Centralia College students and staff. “I love what I do, I love my students and I love being here,” she said. “I live in Olympia, but this college is my home. I’m just so grateful to all the people here and what they do for students. I’ve totally fallen in love with this place … I want the Foundation to know how honored and thankful I am for this amazing acknowledgement and award.”