Adam F. Goldberg OPC ’94 was given a hero’s welcome on Sept. 15 when he returned to Penn Charter, his alma mater and the inspiration for his popular ABC comedy series, The Goldbergs.
Goldberg returned the love.
Former teachers were there to hug him, and former classmates, too. Students in Middle and Upper School packed Dooney Field House and listened, and laughed, as Goldberg told the story of a sad-sack kid who didn’t fit in.
“It wasn’t a place for a kid like me,” Goldberg said of Penn Charter in those days. “I was the kid picked last in gym class and at baseball practice. I would literally pray, ‘God, don’t let the ball be hit to me.’” Academics were just as bad; in Chemistry class, he said, he prayed that science teacher Sandy Portnoy would not call on him.
But he loved to film things, making movies by himself and with friends. That, plus his love of writing, led Goldberg to his calling. But it took his eighth grade English teacher, Charlie Brown, to recognize his “spark.” And, later, art teacher Randy Granger to prove to Goldberg he was heading in the right direction.
It was Brown, in eighth grade English, who allowed Goldberg to turn his required book reports into film, as opposed to traditional papers, and he credited Granger’s film class with helping him get into New York University’s film school.
“It was the first thing for me that clicked,” Goldberg said. “Now I finally felt like I could catch a ball. Instead of writing papers, I made movies, and some of my teachers actually let me do this!”
He also wrote plays, winning the Philadelphia Young Playwrights Festival at the age of 15. Goldberg channeled the people in his life in his writing, penning plays about his grandfather’s struggle with Alzheimer’s, or the overbearing nature of his mom. “I was literally writing The Goldbergs right here at school,” he told students.
Keep searching for your passion, he encouraged PC students.
“I’d have no career without this school and what I learned here,” he said. “A school I never thought would get me, got me, and the teachers understood me and what I was all about.”
Goldberg is the creator and showrunner for The Goldbergs, which is based on his family and his real-life experiences as a PC lifer; in the show PC is William Penn Academy. The popular series goes into syndication this fall on a number of stations, including PHL 17. Goldberg was in town promote the show and receive a mini Liberty Bell, the key to the City of Philadelphia, from Mayor Jim Kenney.
Goldberg entered the PC assembly with members of both of his families in tow — both the real-life Goldbergs (mother Beverly, brothers Eric OPC '85 and Barry OPC '87), as well as a television counterpart: Actor Troy Gentile, who plays Barry on the show, joined Adam for a Q&A at the end of the assembly.
Goldberg, who also brought friends Chad Kremp and Emily Mirsky OPC '94, both portrayed in the The Goldbergs, ended his remarks with a resounding “Go Blue!” – a nod to his Color Day squad, which he still remembers all these years later.
After touring the PC campus – his comment on entering the state-of-the-art Ball Theater: “It’s not fair.” – he departed to prepare for an appearance at Citizens Bank Park for The Goldbergs Night, hosted by the Phillies.
There, more than 300 PC faculty, staff, students, parents and OPCs celebrated The Goldbergs and Penn Charter. The real Barry Goldberg OPC '87, accompanied by his on-screen persona in Gentile, threw out the ceremonial first pitch — to the glove of Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt. No pressure!
The fifth season of The Goldbergs premieres on Wednesday, Sept. 27, at 8 p.m. In syndication on PHL17, episodes will air weeknights at 6 and 7:30 p.m.
More Photos. Goldberg, above center, with teachers Michael Roche and Charlie Brown.
Watch the video message Goldberg made for the assembly.