Ellie Goldenberg Lives on in Memorial Scholarship

From left to right: Bobby Eddy, a scholarship recipient, Dr. David Goldenberg, Dana Goldenberg, Branden Holzer, scholarship recipient and Dr. Renee Flax-Goldenberg. Not pictured is scholarship recipient Alex Michell, who could not attend the ceremony.
By Robert C. Jones Jr.

From left to right: Bobby Eddy, a scholarship recipient, Dr. David Goldenberg, Dana Goldenberg, Branden Holzer, scholarship recipient and Dr. Renee Flax-Goldenberg. Not pictured is scholarship recipient Alex Michell, who could not attend the ceremony.

Ellie Goldenberg Lives on in Memorial Scholarship

By Robert C. Jones Jr.
Three UM B.F.A. musical theatre majors are the first recipients of scholarship named in honor of the UM student who died tragically.

From coping with difficult scene partners to devoting himself fully to his craft, Ellie Goldenberg taught Branden Holzer everything he knows about musical theatre.

“When I think of Ellie as a performer, I think clean, precise, professional,” said Holzer, a Bachelor of Fine Arts Musical Theatre major at the University of Miami. “She was teeming with greatness, confidence, focus and intelligence, and daily I strive to put those qualities into practice.”

Now, Holzer has even more reason to emulate his former classmate. He is one of the three inaugural recipients of the Ellie Goldenberg Memorial Scholarship, established in honor of the 22-year-old who died in a tragic airboat crash in the Florida Everglades a day after she graduated with honors from UM last May.

Bobby Eddy and Alex Michell, both B.F.A. musical theatre majors like Ellie, are the other two recipients.

During an emotional ceremony held Friday at the Newman Alumni Center during which many of the more than 70 people in attendance shed tears, Ellie’s family joined dozens of theatre arts students and faculty in announcing the scholarship recipients and remembering the promising thespian described by one of her former professors as “a magnificent creature of the stage.”

“I can’t even begin to tell you how special this child was, and unusually so,” said David Williams, head of the B.F.A. musical theatre program in UM’s College of Arts and Sciences, who taught Ellie every semester of her UM academic career and presented her with the “Most Promising” award on the day she graduated.

“In the midst of every moment, there’s no way for us to not be reminded of her every day,” said Williams.

He noted that the scholarship will be awarded every year to students in the department who embody Ellie’s dedication, loyalty and work ethic.

In a prepared statement, scholarship recipient Michell, who could not attend the ceremony, remembered Ellie as “a gift to the theatre.”

“All of us, especially those who have been so incredibly lucky to have been graced with her presence, should continue on for her,” Michell wrote.

In his remarks, which were read by Holzer, Michell also challenged himself and other students to “bring a part of Ellie with you…to every rehearsal, because she would have inspired everyone in the room to want to step up to her game. To every performance, because she would have shown the audience how moving a piece of art should be. And to everyday life, because she would have radiated joy to everyone.”

Shedding tears but showing remarkable resolve in composing himself, Eddy recalled the last thing Ellie ever said to him: “ ‘Why are you hugging me again? I’m going to see you tomorrow night,’ ” Eddy remembered. “That actually was very true, because I see Ellie every day in everything as I hold her with me always—when I go on stage, when I go to class, when I walk down the street, and when I look at all of you.”

Ellie’s sister, Dana, who, along with her parents David Goldenberg, an otolaryngologist at Penn State, and mother, Renee, was on the airboat during that tragic day, said her sister “had a voice that could stop time.”

“She would sing, and all my worries would go away,” said Dana. “She was my best friend. She was my ultimate role model, everything I aspired to be.”

Prior to the announcement of the scholarship recipients, David Goldenberg presented the lecture “Common Voice Disorders,” discussing everything from the function of the voice box and vocal cords to why singers get voice disorders and the importance of performers having a team to care and monitor the health of their voice.

“You only have one voice,” he told students. “Be smart about it.

He is pushing for the passage of a state law, Ellie’s Law, that could prevent tragedies like the one his family suffered by establishing new, stringent regulations on commercial airboat operators. 

“If there’s anything good that can come of something that was absolutely terrible,” said Williams, “it’s that other people won’t get hurt. It’s very important to us that Florida takes this up and finishes this bill and gets it to the governor.”