In Memoriam: Paul Ginsberg

“The Best Way to Start Your Day is with a Hug”

Paul Ginsberg, father of Larry Ginsberg, died on April 13, 2015. Described as a “legend” and “institution” at the University of Wisconsin Madison where he worked and lived since 1951, he sheparded thousands of students through the roughest parts of their college lives. As Dean of Students at UWM from 1970 to 1987, Paul was in the midst of challenges from social protest to the growing student movement which by all accounts he handled with integrity, courage and remarkable compassion. His success in addressing the tumultuous demands of his job might be owing to his philosophy; “I believe that most conflicts can be resolved, given time and patience.”

But more telling than his expert balancing of the interests of students versus university and his progressive views, was his personal interactions with students. He sought out the most troubled and least confident and championed mental health services on the campus. Numerous former students and parents commented on approaching him at their darkest moments only to be buoyed up by his confidence which pulled them through. In various interviews and in memoriam remembrances, a picture emerges of a “giant teddy bear come to life” (hence the Paul Ginsberg quote “the best way to start your day is with a hug”) whose “greatest assets were his heart and capacity to listen.” He is described as an “extraordinarily humanizing presence” who had “an insatiable appetite for personal interaction.”

Larry, known to all of us at the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law as its greatest champion, is an example of the adage that the “apple does not fall far from the tree.”