119. Phil Goodyear on Balance
On June 10th, 1997 my father, Philip Goodyear (1941-1997), passed away due to an accident that occurred while he was volunteering to time racers in a town run. He was 56 years old.
Part of my process of remembrance in 2017 was transcribing a graduation speech he gave at Pascack Valley High School in Hillsdale, NJ back in 1985 (luckily found on an old VHS tape). Prior to the speech, he decided to conduct an experiment to discover the virtues of the class of 85’. After the data from extensive surveys was collected and analyzed, it was clear that the most impressive trait was their ability to balance the social, physical, intellectual, and emotional aspects of their lives. He shared the results with everyone at graduation while articulating his vision of the good life:
“What is the most important quality that the students of the class of 1985 have? They have balance like a lever system – I had to get some physics in there, you know? And it is my estimation that they are keeping it level [holds his hands up imitating a level]. Now the Gremlin is my symbol of balance. When we get too deep or carried away in one aspect of our life we can upset the balance. What I wish, for all of you, is that you can recognize the importance of balance in helping you to establish a well-rounded life, and you never let one aspect of life overpower all the others”.
Warrior (PVHS Yearbook) 1987
My father did his best to exemplify this balance. At the Valley he was a dedicated and beloved physics teacher, football coach, mentor, and colleague for more than 30 years. He had other jobs as well: his own business, Goodyear Video Service, and his gig at ABC (Good Morning America) during the summer. Through GVS he quickly became a legendary T.V. repair man which took up a lot of his time. But he also managed to do a great deal for his community, friends, church, and, of course, family. Indeed, my sister and I always felt like he was present in my life despite all his commitments. Luckily he was able to find some time for himself in the yard, gym, and beach. And he was a lifelong learner who earned a Masters in physics and taught at Ramapo College for many years. Every year a student who embodies this kind of rare and delicate balance at Pascack Valley receives the Philip Goodyear Award.
I continue to be amazed by the endless stories of how my father’s ability to balance his life inspired others to balance their own. I heard plenty of these stories while he was alive. But after his death the number dramatically increased and gave me a glimpse into the vast influence he had (see some below and feel free to add some more!). Such examples have been profoundly consoling to me and my family, and demonstrate beyond a doubt how good people survive death by living on through the good they inspire in others.
Life is indeed fragile and can end at any time. All too often we forget this and get caught up in narrow concerns that prevent us from living as comprehensively as we can. Let us then take inspiration from my father’s eccentric totem, The Gremlin of Balance, in order to achieve a high degree of well-rounded, comprehensive growth during our short time here on Earth.
One of the many wonderful Gremlin drawings by my father that would appear on his physics exams.
The drawing is absolutely excellent! And the message even better. Stellar words from a stellar man. WE ALL are better having known him.
Thanks for your kind words James. I am so happy you got to know him and that he got to know you!
To this day I still tell my kids and husband stories of Mr Goodyear and the lessons he taught us about physics and about life. It’s the most vividly memorable class of all my grades. I honestly owe a big part of who Ian today, a pharmacist now for 19 years, to his teachings. I would have never excelled in the college physics classes I took without his AP class. I will never forget him and his legacy of teachings will live on with my children! In fact, last year my then 8 year old did a science fair project to show why the sky turns red at dusk using a soda bottle, water and increasingly larger amounts of milk, an experiment I told her about that I had learned in his class. Thanks for this post I really enjoyed the memories. -Kristen Strohmeier
Thanks so much for sharing Kristen. It is very consoling to hear how his influence lives on. I will be sure my sister and mother hear your kind words. Best wishes!
I always knew Mr Goodyear as Phil. I started working at my family’s hardware store when I was 12 and Phil would always come in for electrical parts he quickly became one of my favorite customers.
It wasn’t until I entered Pascack Valley that I learned Phil was a teacher. I saw him in the hall and shouted hey Phil and he quickly told me in school I had to call him Mr Goodyear. He would become my homeroom teacher and I would see all the crazy experiments he would set up and I knew I wanted to take his physics class. I had to wait till I was a senior and it was the best class and he was the best teacher I have ever had. He even let me call him Phil in class. His passing still effects me, I wanted my kid to have him as a teacher. I still smile when I think about his reward for a good class was to show off his foot without his big toe. I feel blessed to have had him in my life.
Thanks for your comments Chris, I appreciate it. I know you shared your thoughts with both my sister Danielle and my wife Sachiko. But it is nice to have them here for others to enjoy as well. I was indeed privileged to see my dad’s toe whenever I pleased ; ) We’ll see you next time we come by the store…
He was one of those teachers you never forget. I’m still sad when I think about his untimely death. Anyone who knew him was blessed to have had that time. Thank you for sharing him with us, his students, for so many years. He definitely left a legacy.
Thanks so much for sharing Christina. It is very consoling to hear how his influence lives on. I will be sure my sister and mother hear your kind words. Best wishes!
My hands down favorite teacher of all time who I think of often. A long time after you’ve finished school the teachers that resonate the most in your life are not the ones that taught you every scrap of information you know, but the ones that showed you kindness, humor, and understanding. Now, as a parent of a high schooler, I understand that even better. There is nothing more uplifting on a tough day than a person with a smile on their face who reminds you not to sweat the small stuff and makes you feel like a you’re smart even if you don’t know all the answers. So even today, on tough day I can remember that feeling of walking into Mr. Goodyear’s room and seeing someone who loved what they did and shared it with a smile. Thanks for posting this. It made my day 🙂
He was a kind man and his loss was felt.
Class of 1995
Thanks for sharing Meredith, I really appreciate it.
Danielle, This is a lovely tribute to a very special man. He certainly enriched all of our lives. You live on as his living legacy. You do embody his wonderful way of looking at life. (Of course, I must say, your Mom also gave you some wonderful gifts!)
Our (completely by chance) cruise that we all had together (with my cousin, Diane) is a wonderful memory that I have. What a great time that was!
I’m so glad you shared this look into your Dad’s philosophy of life. Thank you!
Dwight, This is so beautiful to read. Your father had it spot on. Balance! I’ve learned that through my first born child thru trials and tribulations of a first time mom; it’s a hard thing to achieve and I’m so glad he was able to share this knowledge with his students.
I went to pascack valley; class of 87, but never had your dad, however, who could not know him! I saw his beautiful spirit when dealing with us kids. You felt his kind heart just standing next to him. He truly connected with us and truly cared for us all. I remember his kindness with a few boys that were struggling in school and in life, he took time to talk with them and to encourage them to forge forward. He inspired us all. I will never forget him, and meeting your sister for the fist time a few years back through our kids going to school together, I see his spirit in her so vividly. She’s a beautiful soul as I’m sure you are.
Thanks so much for your kind and inspiring recollections Ali! I really appreciate it. As you can imagine, it is helpful to hear how his life touched others. I am glad the post resonated with you. I will be sure to get your message to Danielle and my mother as well. Best wishes!
I credit GY with single handedly getting me into college, which turned an apathetic (at best) HS student into someone who loved learning. He took a chance on me, soent time to give me extra help, and also believed in me enough (or made me think he did) that i didnt want to let hik down.
The apathetic HS student i was, with grades so poor i shouldnt have graduated, ended with an MSW from a top ranked university. When i tell people about my educatuon, i ALWAYS tell them how my physics teacher, Mr. Goodyear, made the difference in my life. That, and how I retold the story of him losing his toe won me a medal at the academic decathalon. He was the best teacher i ever had, and i talk of him still.
I also tell the kids i work with as a therapist about GY. He is still influencing kids 20 years later, and 3000 miles away.
Thanks so much Paul for sharing your amazing story. It is deeply consoling to hear it, and to see how my Dad’s influence is still at work. As a professor, I, too, have adopted his strategy of taking chances on students. I see them as good and capable of tremendous potential which then inspires them to step up and…actualize that potential! As William James once said, “faith in a fact helps create the fact”. Best wishes!
The picture of the Gremlins brought so many memories flooding back! I spent four years in Mr. Goodyear’s homeroom. He always made us smile and laugh with his stories. As my daughter made her Senior Schedule last year I encouraged her to take AP Physics recounting the labs we performed in his class and fun we had during Physics Olympics! After I graduated high school I was not sure which career path to follow. One of my college courses required field hours in a classroom. Your mother graciously permitted me to observe in her brand new art studio. Both of your parents inspired me to become a teacher! 21 years later I continue to utilize their methods to make a connection with each and every student that walks through my door.
Thanks so much for sharing your recollections Tracy! I am so happy the post brought back happy memories for you. It is very consoling to hear how my father lives on through people’s families, careers, and so on. That’s amazing that you also knew my Mom so well! She is retired now and doing real well. I will certainly let her know about your kind words. Best wishes…
I was so happy to have met your Mother & Father on the cruise with Betty and Janet. He was so nice and we had such a good time. Say hello to your Mom for me.
Thanks for sharing Diane, I really appreciate it. It’s great to hear you met my Dad and had such a wonderful time on the cruise. I will certainly let my Mom know you said hello.
Hey Dwight! Thank you for sharing …your father as you know was an original and unique man I remember him as my fourth grade basketball coach and Nobel man in the WCL community… In Woodcliff Lake around 1981 you and your father would pick me up at the bottom of my driveway and bring me to practice and games and I clearly recollect your father playing bootleg cassette tapes of the grateful dead live performances …he was such a warm and loving presence and his spirit clearly has influenced and will continue to influence so many people that he affected… Please tell your mom and sister I send you and them my best wishes for an enjoyable and relaxing Summer in honor of your father…God bless as always -Jon Doscher
Hey Jon! Great to hear from you. I really appreciate your kind words and recollections…which I now recollect myself! I remember picking you up and listening to the Dead. I was obsessed with them from 1979 on, and my father was subjected to many bootlegs indeed! Good times. I will certainly let my Mom and Danielle know you said hi. Enjoy your summer as well…
Dear Dr. Goodyear,
Only a lifelong learner knows how to bring the perfect balance to their lives and to teach it to others too. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful, true writing with us. I am moved by it, appreciate it and with your permission will share it with people I love. Thank you.
Thanks for your kind words Mitra. I am glad to you were moved by the post. Thanks for reading and feel free to share it.
I noticed your tribute to your father today as I was tracking down some memories for PV class of ’88. What a wonderful letter you wrote last year. Mr. Goodyear (how I will always remember him), you father, was one of my all time favorite teachers. He was able to teach to an entire class– from the ultra-attentive all the way to the not-so-interested. Everyone learned something every single day. 30 years later, I can tell you I still remember:
1. The Gremlins. I even dressed as a Goodyear Gremlin for Halloween one year with a couple of friends (we have a picture that’s floating around somewhere still).
2. The Big Scoop: That massive ice scooper that Mr. Goodyear would bang on a desk to make sure to wake up the room for the “Big Scoop” lesson of the day.
3. The Egg Drop: I designed my egg drop contraption with wadded up newspapers and cardboard. The box successfully protected the egg from the plummet from the top row of the football bleachers, but failed spectacularly when Mr. Goodyear brought out the sledgehammer.
4. Senioritis: Mr. Goodyear was the only teacher I know of who figured out how to appropriately teach 2nd semester seniors. We all had one foot out the door, but he still managed to keep us entertained and engaged throughout.
All the best to you and your family— may the infinite memories of your father, Mr. Goodyear, live on forever.
Thanks so much for your kind, informative, and uplifting comments Roger. I always love to hear more of those “infinite memories” as you so nicely put it. I especially like details about my father’s unique pedagogical vocabulary! Back in the early 90s two students assembled what they called a “Goodyear Glossary” and it was fantastic – quite comprehensive and funny. I will try to find it and post it at this site. I will be sure to show your comments to my mother and sister as well. Best wishes for phun summer ; )
My friend Charlie Grosvenor just let me know that your father died. We had physics with your father in the 1969-70 school year. Charlie said that your father made physics fun, and I heartily agree. Fifty years later, and we both have fond memories of physics with Mr. Goodyear. I would say he did his job well, and made the world a better place.
Lyle Hough, Class of 1970.
Thanks for sharing Lyle, my family and I appreciate it.
This is great! I remember his drawings on the tests! He was an amazing teacher and person. I did not know half of what he did on the side – Good Morning America?
I was in the class of 87 that voted to dedicate the yearbook to him – so deserving.
He taught by example of all he embodied. He made the material real and the learning fun. So grateful to be able to benefit from his brilliance and good humor!
Thanks for reaching out Anne, I appreciate it. Yes, my dad worked on Good Morning America during the summers. He was on the night shift and would go in around 11 and come back around lunch. These hours allowed him to get plenty of beach time in! That’s great that you were part of the class that dedicated the yearbook to him and I am glad you have so many nice memories.
I have so many fond memories of your dad… I graduated in ’79. I remember exactly who the person was that gave your dad the “big scoop” (wasn’t me, I don’t wanna snitch on him!) but that was sooooo one of his favorite phrases, which I too use to this day. And let’s not forget “wipcream” and “beware of quantum ducks”. Such an amazing guy and teacher who left such a huge impact on so many of us. He was loved. You’re one lucky guy to call him “dad”. I miss him dearly.
Thanks for sharing Dave. I appreciate you not revealing the person who gave my dad the scoop…some mysteries must remain in the realm of (phun) physics! It was nice to come home, check my blog site, and find your memories. I hadn’t come across “beware of quantum ducks” in a long time – almost forgot that one. Happy Holidays!