BERKELEY -- A University of San Francisco media studies professor known to his students as the "Professor of Pop" died early Tuesday morning after a fire broke out in the front room of his Berkeley apartment, officials said.
Andrew Goodwin, a 56-year-old educator and musician friends say was engaged to be married, died at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center shortly after he was discovered unconscious in his apartment at 2431 Oregon St. While investigators do not yet know what sparked the fire inside the home Goodwin lived in for 20 years, officials say it started in the front room where he kept his priceless collection of albums and instruments.
The two-alarm blaze broke out just before 1:38 a.m. at the seven-unit building, which was engulfed in flames when crews arrived. A couple who lived on the first floor, Will Dryer and Jen Agius, say they awoke to the smell of smoke and called 911 before running through the building, banging on neighbors' doors.
With seven of the building's eight residents accounted for, firefighters forced open the dead-bolted door to Goodwin's third-floor unit and found him unconscious in a back room, across the apartment from where the fire started.
While the first and second floor apartments were damaged only by water, Goodwin's apartment was deemed a total loss, officials said. Melted keyboards and guitars were strewn across the front room as fire crews pored through the rubble in search of what may have caused the blaze.
Fire Inspector Fernandez said investigators have ruled out an electrical problem as the cause of the fire. Friends and neighbors said Goodwin was a smoker and enjoyed burning candles, but investigators could not immediately conclude that the fire even started inside the apartment.
"We're working to determine whether the fire started on the inside and worked its way out, or whether it started outside and worked its way in," Fernandez said.
Geoffrey Clarkson, a family friend, said he was blocks away with Goodwin's son, James Foley, about the time the fire broke out.
"We were chatting in his apartment at 1:30 a.m.," Clarkson said, adding he left Foley about 1:45 a.m. "As I was driving ... to Montclair with the window open I smelled the fire and thought it was the Mt. Diablo fire."
Clarkson said Goodwin, a tenured professor at USF, musician, radio broadcaster and radio DJ, was a "gentle soul" and "very generous."
"He was always willing to teach and engage with you," said Clarkson, who said Goodwin loved soccer, and that his favorite team was Chelsea with the English Premiere League.
In a letter released to members of the USF community, school leaders called Goodwin a respected scholar, esteemed colleague and dynamic teacher.
"The USF community offers its sincere condolences and prayers to the family, friends, colleagues and students of Dr. Goodwin," Julia Dowd, USF director of University Ministry wrote. "Andrew will be greatly missed by his colleagues and friends. During this time of loss, please remember that grief counseling and support services are available to USF students, faculty and staff."
A campus memorial gathering will take place but a date and time have not been announced, said Anne-Marie Devine, USF senior director of media relations. Goodwin's blog, "Professor of Pop," was taken offline Tuesday morning.
According to his online USF biography, Goodwin received his Ph.D. in cultural studies from the University of Birmingham, England. He wrote a book on music television and cultural theory called "Dancing in the Distraction Factory" and published articles on media and cultural theory.
Goodwin served on the Editorial Board of Popular Music & Society, was a Corresponding Editor for Media, Culture & Society and wrote for Tricycle, Inquiring Mind, and theworsthorse.net. As of late, he spent much of his time writing a book about Led Zeppelin, a band he has covered across various media and taught classes about at USF.
"We were all out here last night, and everyone who was in the building knew he was still up there," said neighbor Elizabeth Greene, pointing to the exposed facade of the charred apartment. "We just watched and waited."
Greene said she got to know Goodwin only recently despite living across the street from each other for the better part of two decades. She said she was trimming her trees in the yard when Goodwin approached her on his way to the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery and suggested they have tea.
She described Goodwin as open, gregarious and a good storyteller, and said he admitted he had been having a difficult time and had recently become a Buddhist.
"I've been thinking about him a lot," Greene added as she watched pieces of ash and debris flutter from the third floor to the ground. "His spirit is definitely with me today."