David Gottlieb

July 7, 1928August 8, 2018
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It was said of the 5-foot-4 James Madison, our country’s fourth president, that he contained an astonishing ratio of mind to mass. Although he was short of stature, he cast a long shadow among men. The same could be said of David Gottlieb, who at 5-foot-9 also cast a long shadow in his 90 full, productive, amazing years of life that ended on August 8, 2018 in The Woodlands, Texas. There was no doubt when David was in the room, whether he was booming out a song —a hybrid of rousing Detroit Socialist Union/tongue-in-the-cheek sarcasm and hyperbole—for employees at a corporate setting, or talking passionately about Super Adults (please not senior citizens!) or expounding the virtues of Scottish single malt whisky. He had a mind that sought to explore and soar. He was born in Detroit July 7, 1928, the third son of four boys whose parents, Maishul “Morris” and Tzipeh “Sophie” Gottlieb, were immigrants from Belarus, who came to America in the early 1920s. As an adolescent, David began to express his independent, impulsive side and managed to get kicked out of several schools in the Detroit public school system. His life began to find purpose in 1945 when seven months shy of his 17th birthday, he signed on as a young sailor on the Josiah Wedgwood, which secretly transported 1,257 WWII survivors from Europe to Palestine—prior to the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. This illegal immigration was known as Aliyah Bet (the going up to the Promised Land). David recounted his early life in his memoir “Almost A Mensch”.

David returned to the United States where he received a GED, and went on to graduate from Wayne State University, then completing his doctorate in Sociology from the University of Chicago in 1960 with an emphasis on the Sociology of Education and Adolescent Behavior. As a professor at Michigan State University he received the Governor’s Award for Outstanding Service from Governor George Romney for developing programs for disadvantaged youth. During this time he also served as a member of President Kennedy’s Committee on Science and Technology. His academic work and publications caught the attention of Sargent Shriver in the Johnson Administration, and in 1964 he moved to Washington, D.C. to join the US Office of Economic Opportunity as Deputy Director of the Job Corps. In 1965 David received a Special Service Award for his work on the development of the Job Corps from Vice President Hubert Humphrey. From there David became a member of the faculty at Penn State University before accepting an offer in 1973 from the University of Houston, where in addition to teaching, he served as a member of a mayor-appointed task force with the mission of building a partnership between business and low income at-risk public high schools through mentoring and internship programs. In his third year at the university, David accepted the position of Dean of the College of Social Sciences. During this time, he met Houston oilman George Mitchell who was developing a planned community 27 miles north of Houston, called The Woodlands. Mitchell initially hired David as a consultant to coordinate conferences on Sustainable Societies at The Woodlands and to assist with the development of higher education partnerships in The Woodlands. In 1985 Mitchell lured David to The Woodlands as vice president for Institutional Development for The Woodlands Development Company, where he assisted companies and institutions to develop projects in the newly created Research Forest in The Woodlands and worked to establish the Montgomery Community College—now Lone Star College. It was at The Woodlands where he met his wife, Brenda. They were married in 1994 and together they became strong advocates for the arts in the community. In 1995 David became president and CEO of The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Performing Arts, where he worked to fulfill George and Cynthia Mitchell’s dream of making The Woodlands Pavilion an outstanding showcase of music (to use the phrase he coined) “from rock to Bach”. In 2003 David joined Woodforest National Bank as Vice President of Strategic Community Development. He was a founding board member of the Woodforest Charitable Foundation and recently retired at age 89. Among his many recognitions, the one that David was proudest of, was when he received the Alyeh Medal in 2011 from the State of Israel Ministry of Defense for his contribution to the birth of the state of Israel. Other recognitions he received were: City of Houston Read Commission First President and Co-founder; Forum Club of Houston Ben Woodson Medal as one of the founders of the Forum Club of Houston; Japanese American Society Houston Chapter President’s Award; Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year Award; Hometown Hero of The Woodlands; and The Woodlands Arts Council Special Founder Recognition. He was preceded in death by his parents and brothers Bob, Norman and Harold. He is survived by his wife, Brenda and son Saul Dachslager of Dallas; his daughter Amy and Bruce Hogge of Houston; son Peter and Debbie of Dallas; daughter Rebecca and husband Randy Long of Albuquerque; son Michael of Seattle; and daughter Sara Hogue of Cincinnati; also, grandchildren Jordan Owens, Nick, Alyssa and Nathan Gottlieb, Adrienne and Andrew Long, Bailyn, Hunter and Campbell Hogue, and great grandchildren Connor and Logan Owens; also, numerous nephews and nieces from Michigan, Florida, New York and California. The family recognizes the special care given to David by the staff of Brookdale and Vantage Hospice and all the dear friends who visited and sent loving messages to David in his final days. There are many words to describe the generosity, compassion and efforts of David’s magnanimous spirit, but perhaps we leave it with his own words, which he put into practice with “The Actions of One”— yet another organization he founded: “It is our action, not inaction; our empathy, not apathy and our courage to act that matters.” A celebration of David’s life will take place on Tuesday, August 21 at 2 pm at The Woodlands United Methodist Church, 2200 Lake Woodlands Dr in The Woodlands, Texas. The celebration will feature music from “rock to Bach” and include performances by dear friends Darryl Bayer, artistic director of The Woodlands Symphony Orchestra, and jazz pianist and composer Paul English from Houston. After a private cremation, David requested his ashes be scattered over the Isle of Skye in Scotland. For those who would like to commemorate David’s life, we ask that you contribute to the arts. Go see a play, go to the opera or a concert. Visit a museum or art gallery. Celebrate the arts. Support them in your community. Memorial contributions in David’s honor can also be made to: The Woodlands Symphony Orchestra or The Woodlands Arts Council.


  • Celebration of Life Tuesday, August 21, 2018
  • Reception Following Service Tuesday, August 21, 2018

David Gottlieb

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Mary Poillion

August 22, 2018

In a loving, tight embrace, The Lord God Almighty welcomed a very dear friend, Dr. David Gottlieb, to His Holy Kingdom.  Super Angel to us all at Special Angels of The Woodlands (SAW), Dr. Gottlieb supported our own Super Adults in every single endeavor. He loved each one of us and believed that we could and should be active contributing members in our community.  We are grateful for his support and, more importantly, for his super legacy: his respect for us and his continuous example of growing in every way possible as we age.  Know that you are always in our hearts, Dr. G!

Your friends,
Special Angels of The Woodlands

sol sachs

August 20, 2018

A dear and special friend. May his memory be a blessing for all those whose life he touched.

Tammy Rand

August 16, 2018

I will miss you, Dr. G! I will miss your hugs & kisses, your sense of humor, and the “relplies to all” you sent at Woodforest!
I will honor your gift of the arts! Symphony, Water Way Art Festival, your giving spirit!

Judy Olson

August 13, 2018

Dr. G. was a compassionate and colorful institution in this community. He was known and loved by all and he accomplished so many wonderful things for both charity and the arts. I have many fond memories of David and his clever sense of humor. I will never forget coming to work one morning to find David practicing tai chi in the lobby. He was probably 85 years old at the time and he had better balance than most 30 year olds.

Brenda and family, my thoughts and prayers are with you.

Judy Larson Olson

Jay Gottlieb

August 11, 2018

At times in my life, my Uncle David was a phenomenal sounding board. Logic and compassion were always in his response. I remember with clarity certain how he helped me determine the educational pathway that I would take following my undergraduate education. That road was one of excitement and adventure.
I remember driving up to their home for a visit in 1971 and seeing a Nixon poster in one window and a McGovern poster in another.
It was Pete and Max expressing their views to the public. I respected the fact that my Uncle David not only accepted, but encouraged both of them. Ralph Wakdo Emerson wrote “What you do speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you say”, Uncle David’s actions , words and writings were always in alignment.
David Gottlieb’s presence has left positivity in his absence. I am glad that he was my father’s brother and my uncle.

Kathy Leibold

August 11, 2018

I first met Dr. G. when he joined us at The Woodlands Development Company. I instantly knew David was different - his wit, his pearls of wisdom and his honesty and frankness were compelling. David had a way of inspiring those around him to reach outside of their comfort zone and take chances, not to mention he always kept me laughing.

Brenda, I remember the day we bumped into each other at the grocery store and you mentioned David was looking for someone to transcribe the oral transcript for his next book, "Staying in the Game"! I want you to know I was so honored to have worked on that project and to have "met" via audio recordings all of the incredible individuals he interviewed who were still going strong at age 75 and older, those who were still pursuing their dreams, overcoming hardships yet still "Staying in the Game" and doing what they loved. David brought out their stories in such a way that illustrated how seniors can and do continue working while enriching their lives and the lives of others. David was a prime example of a successful, inspiring individual who definitely "Stayed in the Game". I was privileged to have known him.

Brenda, I am keeping you and your family in my prayers. May God bless you and keep you in all the fond memories of your beautiful life together with David.


Kathy Leibold

Terri Visosky

August 10, 2018

Dear Brenda - David was an inspiration to so many. It was my pleasure to office with him and sit and ponder the meaning of life with him on many occasions. May our Lord comfort you and lift you up. Terri

Paula Oleary

August 10, 2018

Dearest Brenda, Bill and I extend our most heartfelt sympathy. David was a Mensch and will be missed by the entire community.

Sue Burke Harrington

August 9, 2018

Dr Gottlieb was so inspiring when I first met him as my social studies professor at Michigan State University, that I had to learn more and made Social Psycholgy my minor. Then, amazingly, I met him again at a Woodlands Arts Council party and realized that this inspiring, charismatic gentleman had appeared in my life again and once again he was challenging us all to be all that we could be! His legacy will constantly inspire us all to give back to our community. The Woodlands and it’s Arts Community is so fortunate that he and his lovely wife, Brenda, have been here and have contributed so much to our community. Many thanks and much love!

Sue Burke Harrington.

Ann McAlpin

August 9, 2018

Dr. G. taught me one of my best non-profit lessons ever, and I've been laughing about it for years! I was at the Woodforest Foundation to talk about CASA Child Advocates. I started by telling a story about an amazing thing one of our volunteer Advocates had done for the kids. I noticed a couple of the women were a bit teary, and I thought to myself that I must be doing pretty good. Then, Dr. Gottlieb leaned over the table, and said "That's all well and good, but what are your outcome measures? Anyone can tell a little ditty!" Yes, Dr. G--now I'm always careful to tell a story AND do the stats! We all loved you, and we all learned from you.

And Brenda - it was a direct result of that conversation that I met you. That was a great day for me! Thoughts and prayers . . .