Mention the Goodman brothers and their legendary generosity to most Madisonians, and they will nod their heads knowingly. And while the businessmen and philanthropists are no longer with us—Irwin died in 2009 followed by Bob in 2010—their legacy of giving back will live on for generations to come.
From the Goodman Pool to the Goodman Campus to the Goodman Community Center, the brothers’ stamp on who we are and what we stand for as a community sends a loud and clear message that to them, Madison was so much more than a place to conduct business.
But business is what brought Irwin to Madison in 1937 to operate a family jewelry store. A celebrated baseball player at UW–Madison, Bob joined his brother soon after and the two enjoyed careers that spanned more than sixty years. Today Goodman Jewelers, located on 220 State Street, is the oldest, full-service jewelry store in the city—and still one of the most popular.
After establishing their business, Irwin and Bob began to look for ways to give back to the community. They gave for more than seventy years, and in that time Madison parks have been a beneficiary of the Goodman’s philanthropy thanks to the brothers’ commitment to public recreation spaces and activities. Their $2.8 million lead gift to construct a city swimming pool jumpstarted the project, and the Goodman Pool opened in 2006. But the Goodmans didn’t stop there. They went on to establish a pool scholarship fund, now administered through the Madison Parks Foundation, which provides free swimming lessons and pool passes to disadvantaged children and their families. In 2013 alone, the Goodman Foundation sponsored 397 swimming lessons and provided daily admissions for 10,141 people.
“Like the Tenneys, the Olins, and the Vilases before them, the Goodmans understood the value and the meaning of giving back,” says Grant Frautschi, president of the Madison Parks Foundation. “It’s not only a great honor to have the Goodman name tied to civic investments in Madison parks, it’s a validation of how integral pools, parks and public spaces are to the health and vitality of our city and its residents.”
The Goodman Foundation ensures that the brothers’ philanthropy will live on through its mission “to preserve and enhance the legacy of Irwin and Bob Goodman in Madison, Wisconsin.”
For its part, Goodman Jewelers continues to be one of Madison’s favorite jewelers while current owner John Hayes, who purchased the business in 1998, is maintaining the Goodman brothers’ longstanding traditions of corporate citizenship and community stewardship. On the last day of Madison schools last June, Hayes made a splash by sponsoring “Goodman Day” at Goodman Pool, offering free admission to the first five-hundred students.
Wherever you find the Goodman name, you always find good things happening.