Joel Gold

Joel Jay Gold was born in Brooklyn, NY on December 19, 1931 to Hannah and Henry Gold. He died in Lawrence, KS on October 14, 2014. He was 82. He is survived by his wife, Ellen, of Lawrence; his sister, Marti; three children, Jennifer (husband Luke), Alison (children Celeste and Vahalla), and Katy (husband Greg, and children, Carina, Lisette, and Avery). He was preceded in death by his brother Richard in 1997.

Joel grew up in Merrick, NY and, on the advice of his family butcher, attended the University of Missouri He was diagnosed with polio shortly after arriving in Columbia and spent five days in an iron lung machine and another year recovering.

Returning to MU, he got a job as a disc jockey at KFRU. Because of his pronounced Long Island accent, listeners besieged the station: “What did he say?”

He was editor of the campus humor magazine Showme, October 1953-June 1954. Every month Showme artists sketched a center spread, showing students and residents of Columbia engaged in various activities [often drinking].

An early center spread too risqué for the times led to Joel’s appearing before the University Board of Publications and reading an apology into the record. The entire staff stayed up late that night inking out the offending artwork on every copy of the magazine.

Joel claimed that sales of ink eradicator tripled the next day.

In 1955, when the student newspaper, The Missouri Student was losing circulation, the Board of Publications, chaired by Loren Reid, who was later to become Joel’s father-in-law, asked Joel to take over.

Joel renamed the paper The Maneater and announced a “biting editorial policy” (sure to annoy deans and the administration.) ln later years, Joel reflected, “We were looking for news stories and pseudo-news. . . . Sometimes accuracy went a little by the boards.”

The MU dorms at the time had a policy that for Sunday dinner men should wear a coat and tie. One Sunday, Joel urged all the dorm residents to dress for dinner, wearing a coat and tie—but no shirt. Mrs. Houston, the housemother, just laughed.

He married Ellen Reid in 1956 and worked briefly in advertising [Brooke, Smith, French and Dorrance] and pharmaceutical sales [Lederle], before returning to graduate school.

He received a Ph.D. in English from the University of Indiana in 1962. He taught English at the University of Kansas from 1962 until his retirement in 1999, with brief visiting stints at Bowling Green State University and the University of Illinois. He received an Amoco Distinguished Teaching Award from the University of Kansas and was awarded the University of Missouri’s Distinguished Alumni award in 1998.

He joined several scholarly organizations, including the MLA and was president of the Johnson Society of Kansas.

An Anglophile, Joel traveled frequently to live and work in London. His scholarly writing included editing the Yale edition of the Works of Samuel Johnson: A Voyage to Abyssinia. He also wrote humorous essays about teaching that were published in The Chronicle of Higher Education and the Lawrence Journal World. His humor was also published in Academe, FordTimes, Winds and reprinted in college textbooks. A collection of his essays appeared as a book, The Wayward Professor.

A lifelong Giants fan, Joel followed the Kansas City Royals after moving to Kansas. He would have loved this year’s World Series. Either way.

A service will be held at the Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence in the spring. In lieu of flowers, his family suggests a donation to the Lawrence Humane Society or the March of Dimes. Guestbook at



7 Condolences

  1. Kate Stammler,nee Katie Hocker on October 18, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    Hugs to all of you, and sorry for your loss-we are far away from Lawrence these days, but my memories of meals and conversations in your house are among my best of childhood–lots of teasing, challenging word-play, exciting ideas and a family world different from my own, welcoming to me always. Thank-you -Katie Hocker

  2. Ashley on October 19, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    I was one of the first care-givers for Joel and I will miss him deeply!! He was a great guy! My heart goes out to his family!!!!

  3. Dorthy Pennington on October 20, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Hello Ellen & Family,
    I send my condolences to you in the loss of your husband and father. May many happy memories be a source of comfort for you. I remember Joel as quite the intellectual during our years in Wescoe Hall.

    All the best to you.

    Dorthy L. Pennington

  4. Thorold (Tod) Roberts on October 23, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    I send my condolences to Prof. Gold’s friends and family. I was his student in several courses at the Univ. of Kansas in 1963-68, and he was a major inspiration for me to become a college teacher. He will be much remembered for his scholarship, mentoring, and kindness.

  5. Dick Eversole and Mo Godman on November 5, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    I had the pleasure of sharing an office with Jo in the late sixties. I was new to the department and he made me feel very comfortable. It was also much appreciated that he came to our wedding in England in 1986. We think of him fondly.

  6. Barbara Burlison on November 6, 2014 at 10:54 am

    My sincere sympathies to Ellen and their children and grandchildren. I was fortunate to have worked on the first Maneater staff at UMC with Joel, and remember with great affection his directions to “his” reporters. He was witty, bright, and I always wished I could have been a student in one of his classes. I know they were both educational and entertaining. The first students of Mizzou’s student newspaper, it’s continuing roster of excellent students, and the university itself owe a great debt to him for his vision and inspiration. It was a privilege to have known him.

  7. Sandra Panici on December 5, 2014 at 6:36 am

    My undergraduate professors from Indiana knew Joel Gold as the Big Man on Campus. He was larger than life at Lawrence too. Every week his Graduate students would board his literary time machine and take a trip to 17th and 18th century England. Professor Gold knew all the nuances, quirks, variables and vagaries of his studies. Judging by how we all behaved after class, I don’t think any of us ever fully came back from those trips. He changed all of us, turning us into real scholars and real people too, saying early on that we can be scholars without acting like the Graduate students at that place and the other place too. He was brilliant and could teach too, a rarity.

    Many times I would turn in my papers late just so I could walk to his house at night, especially enchanting in the Winter when the sidewalks would glisten and sparkle all along the well-lit walk, and the city lights below in the valley were plentiful, big and bright. His house was on the edge of Mount Oread and I would linger on the way back just to merge into the bright shimmer that lit up the dark. The KU campus was beautiful by day and magical at night.

    I had three Graduate courses with Professor Gold from 1967 – 1969, and I still experience the fullness and richness of his influence.

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