A Tribute to Sam Goldwyn, Jr.

January 22, 2015

Sam Goldwyn, Jr. at the Children's Center that bears his name.

I thought John Goldwyn really nailed it in his tribute to his father Sam Goldwyn, Jr. in Variety following Sam’s passing. I was particularly drawn to the quote from the writer Richard LaGravenese in John’s tribute that for me described why Sam was one of my favorite donors and MPTF supporters. LaGravenese once told John Goldwyn:  “Your Dad has one foot planted in 1936 and the other in 2036. There’s no one else who can do that.”

In 1995 I was hired to be the CEO of the fledgling MPTF Foundation (the fundraising arm of MPTF) that Lew and Edie Wasserman had recruited Jeffrey Katzenberg to Chair. It was a passing of the torch in some ways since Lew and Edie had been the driving force beyond MPTF for so many years. And while they both remained active until they passed, it was clear to me that part of my responsibility was to help guide MPTF into the next generation of leadership and support. Jeffrey had asked Sam to be on the MPTF Foundation Board along with other leading Hollywood executives and filmmakers.

In those first years, I met with every one of the Foundation Board members and realized few had any real sense of the MPTF mission although receptive to helping when and where they could. None of my early conversations with Board members matched the intensity of my first conversation with Sam, which bore out LaGravenese’s astute observation that Sam was equal part Hollywood legacy and a futurist – like no one else I had met. While he may have represented the past in name, his vision along with his longtime business partner Meyer Gottlieb was all about what was to come.

The Goldwyn family (Sam, Sr. and Frances) had given and done so much for MPTF during their lifetime and they had clearly endowed their son with the same passion for caring, but Sam’s philanthropy also reflected his sense of independence and what our community needed.

His donation of millions of dollars to create the MPTF Children’s Center (named the Samuel Goldwyn Foundation Children’s Center) took MPTF into a completely different direction from being “the old age home.” He saw the need for child care for the freelance workforce in Hollywood as critical and did something about it at SGFCC by creating a tuition assistance fund to help families needing child care but struggling with the ebb and flow of work and pay in the business.  Over the years, that fund has supported families with over $1 million in assistance.

And there was NEVER a time when talking with Sam that he did not quiz me on whether the next generation of Hollywood were engaging with MPTF and giving back. I always made sure I had an answer ready, but I also knew that Sam would have his own thoughts about the subject and feel free to share them with me. As John also pointed out in Variety, his father loved dispensing advice and for that I will always count myself very lucky to be the recipient of some since it always came with great passion for and commitment to the cause of “caring for our own.”

Now that 2036 is closer than the fading memories of 1936, it is fitting that at one of my last lunches with Sam, he turned to Bob Beitcher, MPTF Board member Roger Mayer and me and said – what do you want to do next to serve the entertainment community? And with that simple question came the Samuel Goldwyn, Jr. Center for Behavioral Health on the MPTF campus. It was dedicated in Sam’s honor in September 2014 in what may have been his last public appearance.  We thanked him that day for his generosity that allowed us to establish this new service of care and, with Jeffrey Katzenberg, Jim Gianopulos and Sam’s family and friends present, we assured Sam that the next generation of Hollywood is engaged and preparing for 2036 and beyond, and that his legacy will forever drive our  vision of what can be and not by what once was – I think that is the best tribute MPTF can pay to him and the one he would want.

About Ken Scherer

During his nineteen years as CEO of the MPTF Foundation, Ken Scherer has worked closely with Foundation Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg in raising more than $500 Million for the charitable programs and services of the entertainment industry’s charity. This includes the creation of the Night Before, Evening Before, Michael Douglas & Friends Celebrity Golf, A Fine Romance and Reel Stories Real/Lives - events that raise millions of dollars annually for MPTF. Scherer is a Founding Board member of the NFL Player Care Foundation appointed by the NFL Commissioner and was recently elected to the Board of Directors for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACSCAN). Scherer previously served as the COO of Lynch/Frost Productions (Twin Peaks).

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