A day after she graduated, a UM theater student dies in an Everglades boat crash – Miami Herald

On Friday, University of Miami theater student Elizabeth “Ellie” Goldenberg earned her musical theater degree.

She was on her way to a promising career in her chosen craft, having graduated summa cum laude and with a Friends of Theatre Award to her credit. The honor, one of the highest given by the school’s theater department, recognizes talent and “unlimited potential” in acting.

But on Saturday morning, while on a family outing in the Everglades, the airboat in which she was riding crashed. Goldenberg, 22, was ejected and killed.

Robert Klepper, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said the fatal boat crash, one of five throughout Miami-Dade on Saturday, happened around 11:45 a.m. in the Everglades Wildlife Management Area, about 12 miles west of Krome Avenue.

Also on board the airboat: Steve Gagne, 52, of Miami, her sister Dana Goldenberg, 20, and her parents Renee Flax-Goldenberg, 54, and David Goldenberg, 54, all of Hummelstown, Pennsylvania. Dana and David Goldenberg were taken to Kendall Regional Hospital. The crash is under investigation.

The Israel-born student “was absolutely beloved by her faculty, fellow students and her many UM friends,” Patricia Whitely, vice president for student affairs at UM, said in a statement.

Students from UM’s theater department posted tributes to Goldenberg on social media.

Goldenberg was featured in numerous Jerry Herman Ring Theatre productions on campus in the venue named for the composer of the Broadway classic and recent revival, “Hello, Dolly!” She starred in “Spring Awakening,” “Of Thee I Sing,” “The Adding Machine” and Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.”

In a student profile on the school’s College of Arts & Science’s page, Goldenberg, a vice president of Theatre Action Group, said that performing alongside Broadway actor Jeff Kready in Tom Jones’ “The Game of Love,” was a highlight of her fledgling career on the stage.

“This opportunity was presented to the cast with very little notice, which only made the experience more exciting and more challenging. The cast, consisting of musical theater students as well as professional actors, put on this staged reading with less than 24 hours of rehearsal,” she said of the production that was sponsored by the Myrna and Sheldon Palley New Musical Theatre Initiative.

Goldenberg spent a year abroad in Israel after high school. According to UM, her deep connection to her Jewish heritage carried over to the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre. Often, her family would send Israeli treats to congratulate her on opening night.

She was involved in Emet Israel and UChabad, a Jewish student organization at UM.

“My heritage is very important to me and I love connecting with other students who feel the same way,” she said in her profile.

Her theater colleagues recalled how she was often the first to arrive at the Ring Theatre on performance days.

“I will always remember her big hair, her big voice, and most of all her big heart. She was not only my mentor, she was my best friend. She held me to a high standard and saw what I could achieve even when I couldn’t. I am grateful everyday for the time we had together,” her “Spring Awakening” costar Branden Holzer told The Miami Hurricane, the student newspaper.

On Goldenberg’s recent profile, the popular graduate had a message for her fellow thespians and future Hurricanes: “Take disappointments or failures with a grain of salt. It may seem like the most critical or devastating thing at the time, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s only a blip. Learn from it and move on.”

Goldenberg’s survivors include her parents, David and Renee, her sister Dana and brother Michael. The family planned to have a private memorial service at the Ring Theatre on Monday afternoon and will follow with a funeral Tuesday at Kesher Israel Synagogue in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The family asks that those who wish to help can fund planting a tree in Israel in Goldenberg’s name through Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael, Jewish National Fund, or give a donation to the Ellie Goldenberg Memorial Scholarship Fund: Department of Theatre Arts, University of Miami, P.O. Box 248273 Coral Gables, Florida, 33124.