When Peter Langer ’68 (CLAS) began his freshman year at UConn in the fall of 1964, he was pleasantly surprised to be selected as a member of the University’s first class of honors students. He describes the Honors Program as a new experiment for UConn—one that changed his life.
“UConn, and especially the Honors Program, was the perfect place for me, and my four years there comprised the most explosive, amazing, and mind-opening experience of my life,” Langer says. “When I look at the things I most enjoy doing—art, music, theater, engagement in civic activities—those are all things that were fostered and nurtured and developed at UConn. They have stayed with me and enriched my whole life.”
After graduation and a stint in the Peace Corps, Langer earned his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago, then taught at the University of Michigan and Boston University. In 1986 he moved to UMass Boston, where he would spend the rest of his career.
In 1998, Langer met Lynne Goodstein when they were introduced by friends. Their connection was immediate, and they were married in 2000.
“We had a love story and a marriage for the ages,” Langer says.
In 2002 Langer and Goodstein’s connection grew to also include UConn when Goodstein joined the University as director of the Honors Program—the same program Langer had participated in 40 years earlier.
“Lynne had previously worked at Penn State and was in love with the big state research institutions,” Langer says. “She thought UConn would be a place she would love, too, and she was fascinated by working in the Honors Program.”
It was, indeed, a good fit, and the Honors Program transformed under Goodstein’s leadership. The program—which has grown from 50 students in its first year to more than 2,000 students today—now includes enrichment programs, internships, study abroad opportunities, and summer programs.
“Lynne was always interested in the students’ classroom experience being enhanced by working with the faculty in their labs, or by going on a research trip abroad,” Langer says. “She loved her students, who called her Dr. G, and was so happy to help them flourish.”
Their shared Honors Program connection was also a source of amusement for Goodstein.
“Lynne would introduce me as her husband who was a member of the first class of honors students, and her students would look at me like, ‘how old is this guy?’” Langer laughs. “It became a running joke for her.”
Goodstein served as director until 2012, when she returned to the faculty as a professor of sociology. She kept a full teaching load until 2018, when she and Langer both retired. It was shortly after retirement that Goodstein received a devastating diagnosis.
“We had been together for 20 years, had just retired, and were looking forward to spending the next 20-plus years living life to the fullest,” Langer says. “Out of the blue, Lynne—who had never been sick a day in her life and was very active—was diagnosed with an incredibly rare neurological disease.”
Goodstein passed away a short time later, and Langer knew he needed to find a way to honor her memory.
“I thought, ‘How am I going to honor Lynne’s memory and keep her name, her spirit, and her love alive in the world?’” he says. “I realized I had the ability to endow something at UConn so that the work that meant so much to Lynne could continue in her name.”
Langer established the Dr. Lynne Goodstein and Dr. Peter Langer Award, which provides scholarship support for students enrolled in the Honors Program as well as faculty support through the Goodstein/Langer Award for Honors Advising.
“Lynne saw that students with modest means often could not take advantage of the great opportunities available because they couldn’t afford to take a semester abroad, or spend the summer working on research, because they had to work,” Langer says. “By providing an enrichment award, I can help a student who otherwise would not be able to benefit from these opportunities.”
“Peter’s generosity fills a need to provide global experiential learning opportunities for honors students, with a particular emphasis on supporting travel and study abroad for first-generation students and students from diverse backgrounds,” says Jennifer Lease Butts, assistant vice provost for Enrichment Programs and director of the Honors Program. “I find it inspiring that Peter and Lynne’s love story included this shared UConn connection. Peter’s pride in Lynne’s leadership, which propelled UConn Honors into its current success, is palpable. I am grateful that future generations of UConn Honors students will benefit from their shared love for UConn and each other.”
Through this award, Langer has ensured that Goodstein’s legacy at UConn will live on.
“Lynne was wonderful and is so missed by me, our family, and all of her colleagues who knew her,” Langer says. “It means a lot to me to be able to do this, to follow her legacy of helping students with modest means take advantage of all the riches UConn and its faculty have to offer. Her love and life live on.”