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UConn History Professor Lawrence B. Goodheart has always been ahead of the curve. His 2011 book, The Solemn Sentence of Death: Capital Punishment in Connecticut, which documented the history of the death penalty in Connecticut, called the then-current death penalty law unenforceable. A little more than a year later, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy called that law “unworkable” and signed a bill repealing Connecticut’s death penalty.

Yet Professor Goodheart is too modest to take any credit. “It’s hard to say what the direct impact was,” Goodheart says. “There were radio, TV, and print interviews. I hope that the book had an influence, because its purpose was public information placed in historical context.”

Goodheart, who was named Acting State Historian in January 2011 when Connecticut State Historian Walter Woodward went on an eight-month sabbatical, was attracted to the field of history due to his innate intellectual curiosity, excellent professors during his undergraduate and graduate education, and the turmoil of the 1960s and 1970s.

“As a school teacher in the Rochester, New York public schools, I was involved in various ways with racial desegregation of the city schools,” he explains. “In addition, I was active in protest against the immoral Vietnam War. The study of history provides an essential perspective for the struggle for peace and justice.”

Since 1990, Professor Goodheart has taught U.S. History, African American History, and the Civil War at UConn’s Greater Hartford Campus. He is passionate about those subjects and explains why.

“I agree with Martin Luther King, Jr. that there is a moral imperative to stop racism, to promote non-violence, and to foster social-economic justice,” he says. “I teach largely through documents (from the historical period studied), and let the students draw their own conclusions. For example, how can a nation’s founding documents declare that ‘all men are created equal’ while legitimating the evil of slavery?”

Goodheart’s passion and enthusiasm for history are passed on to his students, who are filled with superlatives when describing their professor. Comments by former students range from “very intelligent and a great professor,” to “awesome teacher” to “Dr. Goodheart is the best professor I ever had. He puts so much thought into the readings and discussions,” to “He’s passionate about his work, has a lot of knowledge, and it’s amazing how he can tie just about anything into what we’re talking about.”

Professor Goodheart’s favorite aspect of teaching is encouraging students to think critically about the fundamental issues of human rights. He especially enjoys the life skills, knowledge and enthusiasm that Bachelor of General Studies (BGS) students bring to the classroom.

“BGS student are mature, thoughtful, and motivated and are often my best students,” he says. “They bring a broader perspective and more emphatic commitment to their studies and usually develop into outstanding students. I am an emphatic supporter of UConn’s Bachelor of General Studies program. My African American history courses taught in the evenings with many BGS students are extraordinary.”