"It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit."

Honoring John Goldman, recipient of the 2018 Robert Sinton Award for Distinguished Leadership

At one time or another, we have all declared ourselves as busy, running from one place to the next, on a hectic timeline, constantly preoccupied. But when you consider John Goldman’s calendar, our schedules pale in comparison.

John Goldman
John Goldman

Aside from the John and Marcia Goldman Foundation, which John runs with his wife and children, Goldman was Chief Executive Officer for Richard N. Goldman & Co., an insurance brokerage firm specializing in the development of customized commercial and personal insurance and risk management programs. Prior to that he worked for several years in Sacramento at the Office of the Legislative Analyst and served as California's assistant secretary of transportation. He is a member of the Federation’s Board of Governors (as well as a past president), the US Olympic and Paralympic Foundation, the Beyond Barriers Athletic Foundation, Stanford Health Care, Stanford’s Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society, and is the former president of Jewish Family and Children’s Services and the San Francisco Symphony, where he was president for 12 years. He has been a trustee of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts since his appointment by President Obama in 2014 and serves on many family foundations.

And yet, on this far from comprehensive list of his philanthropic achievements, there is one thing you won’t see a lot of: his name.

“Nothing about John’s commitment to philanthropy is vanity driven. Absolutely nothing,” said Amy Lyons, the executive director of the John and Marcia Goldman Foundation. “He’s just authentically committed and works really, really hard at it. For him, it’s purely about helping people.”

That genuine drive to make the world a better place comes from nights sitting around the dining room table with his parents, Richard and Rhoda Goldman of blessed memory.

“My parents didn’t instruct us to be involved, they pretty much showed us by example because they were active in a whole bunch of areas,” said John from his Bay Area office. “But at dinner, we’d talk about people. About how important personal relationships are and especially how important being in the community, and giving to the community was in their lives. I know that’s kind of weighty stuff but that’s actually what happened. So I think this idea of being involved was ingrained in us in our younger days.”

L to R: John Goldman, George Schultz, Richard Goldman, Annette Dobbs, George Foos, c. 1988

From Generation to Generation…

While there is no detectable braggadocio in John Goldman with regard to his personal achievements, don’t get him started on his children.

Whether by design or DNA, Aaron and Jessica seem to be following the example of their parents and grandparents, and John is simply, well, kvelling.

“My kids could have gone in different directions. They could have had a certain degree of entitlement, but let me put it this way – they have achieved so much on their own because of their understanding that they should do what resonates with them. And they are passionate about what they do.”

Aaron and his wife are both scientists and faculty at Oberlin college. “I don’t know where our son came from, frankly.” John joked. “He’s absolutely the nicest, most understanding person, but we struggle to figure out what the heck he’s talking about most of the time. He’s very patient with us.”

Jessica has overcome chronic illness to become an acclaimed author, blogger, and advocate. “She’s also a great mom. With a lot of strikes against her, she just pushes through and instills all these great values into our grandchildren.”

Today, both Aaron and Jessica as well as their spouses, Sara and Alejandro, are deeply involved with the family foundation which focuses primarily on youth development, health, science, and the arts.

“The funny thing is that years ago we started the foundation as a vehicle to get our kids engaged, to learn about some of the ways to be philanthropic… and they wanted nothing to do with it. And now their level of engagement is huge. We are all on the board together… And you know what the cool part is? Marcia and I always said that the measures of our kids’ successes are the values that they establish for themselves. And they truly embody the values of caring and improving the lives of others.”

Ironically, while the Sinton Award is ultimately about leadership, John refuses to think of himself in those terms: “You know, I hate being labeled as a leader. I’m just a person who tries to do stuff that reflects who I am.” Nevertheless, he does offer a few core beliefs on the subject: “If you agree to do something, then you do it. And if you encourage others and lift them up by acknowledging them and having them recognized for the good they do, they will follow your lead.”

Marcia and John Goldman

Join us to celebrate John Goldman at Day of Philanthropy on Tuesday, November 13.

Categories: Leadership, Awards


June 28, 2018


Jon Moskin