Larry Goodwin was raised the adopted son of a lawyer and a homemaker in San Antonio, TX. Far from feeling stigmatized, he felt being adopted was a "mark of distinction."
"I always had this notion that I was chosen and everybody else, their parents just had 'em," he said with a laugh. "I thought it was a good thing. The first time somebody looked a little stunned when I said I was adopted, I just couldn't understand why."
It was a happy boyhood, he said, spent with three siblings who were adopted and one birth child of his parents. He was an Eagle Scout who loved three things that have stayed with him ever since those days: reading, writing and religion. Thanks to skipping a grade, he finished high school at age 16. He then chose to enter a monastery.
He was with them for five years, leaving before taking final vows. Then came an even more radical transition: leaving a monastery to enter a war. He quit the Passionists in May of 1968 and was promptly drafted. He entered the Army in September and by the following July was in Vietnam as an interrogator with an intelligence unit.
"My job was more interesting than many, because I actually met the enemy," he said. "These were North Vietnamese army regulars, troops just like the U.S. troops." Trained in the Vietnamese language, he questioned prisoners of war. Part of the time he was stationed in a field hospital near a combat zone.
" It was pretty ugly. For instance, they'd bring in 20 wounded from a firefight. Severely wounded GIs had first claim on the operating rooms. The other side's soldiers had to wait. That's pretty sad business. You're talking to people at their most vulnerable. I saw people die as I spoke to them."
The contrast from a monk's life could hardly have been sharper.
"That's why I have this interest in the problem of evil, and why I went into the study of theology. What I saw in Vietnam did not jibe with the notion an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving presence or God. I'm very interested in how people try to sort it out, how they try to reconcile the evil in the world with their faith."
Goodwin, who is Catholic, still believes that God is all-knowing and all-powerful, but feels we need to rethink what those terms mean.
"For example, how does God know the future? I've come to realize that the future is indeterminate in and of itself, and, therefore, that even a perfect knower would know it as indeterminate.
"And what do we mean when we say that God is all-powerful if we also believe that human beings have some decision-making power? God cannot have all the power if we have some of it. 'All powerful' refers to quality, not quantity, of power. The perfection of power is persuasive, not coercive."
After the war he attended the University of Chicago. He achieved his master's and doctorate in theology and began the path in academia that eventually led to St. Scholastica.
Dr. Goodwin's career experience includes more than a decade as an educator at The College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, MN, where he served as
He also began a Master of Arts program in theology at St. Catherine, as well as a Weekend College.
His first sight of St. Scholastica came when he was a tourist happening by.
"I saw it rising up out of the hill and I was just drawn to it. I thought, 'If I'm ever going to live in Duluth, this is where I'm going to work.' "
He got a taste of the College's personality later, when he talked to faculty members while interviewing for the position of Dean of Faculty.
"My impression then, and still today, is that the faculty are teachers who love working with students, and are not overly full of themselves. I found that very attractive. I thought to myself, this is a place where you could propose a new idea and people would say, given it's a good idea, 'OK, let's try it.' "
He also liked the "distinctive and definite" imprint of the Benedictine Sisters that defines the St. Scholastica experience.
Outside the president's office, Dr. Goodwin is on the Minnesota Public Radio Regional Council, serves as a board member of Duluth United Way, is a Rotarian and is on the Board of Directors of the Minnesota Private College Council.
Dr. Goodwin has two daughters.