Goffberg, Herman : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Goffberg, Herman

track and field

Country Represented:
United States

Years Competed:

Olympic Info:
Goffberg was a member of the United States track and field team at the 1948 London Olympics, and competed in the 10,000-meter race. In what he called "the biggest thrill" of his life, Goffberg finished 16th out of 42. He said of the race: "It was very exciting. 96,000 people came to watch track and field every day. It was exhilarating."

Career Highlights:
After attending Michigan Normal College (now Eastern Michigan University) in the late 1930s, Goffberg transferred to Penn State University and immediately joined the cross country team. Injuries had hampered him during his sophomore and junior years, but he was in peak form when he joined the Penn State team in 1941. That year, he helped the cross country team finish second at the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Championship. A member of the track and field team as well, Goffberg helped Penn State finish second at both the indoor and outdoor national championships in 1942.

After graduating, Goffberg placed third in the 10,000-meter at the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) National Championships before joining the U.S. Navy in 1943; he served in the Phillipines during World War II. Following the war, he returned to the sport of running, and in 1948, he took part in the U.S. Olympic time trials in the 10,000-meter race. At the trials, held on a 96-degree day in Milwaukee, Goffberg knew it would be difficult to qualify for the Olympic team and later said: "I looked down the line at the other runners and I counted 12 guys who could beat me. They only took the top three." Goffberg finished the race in third and qualified for the Olympics. He said, "I had to go back on a night train from Milwaukee to Philadelphia and I couldn't sleep all night. I was so excited."

Following the 1948 London Games, Goffberg went back to England in the mid-1950s and ran his own business (advertising and importing) for 35 years. He returned to Penn State in 1991 as an assistant coach (and manager) with the cross country and track teams, and was the first president of the Penn State Varsity "S" Club (in 1995). Goffberg also continued to run in the 1990s, qualifying for the 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter races at the 1993 Maccabiah Games in the 60-plus age category. The previous year, he won the Knights of Columbus 5,000-meter race in the over-65 division, and also won the Bellefonte 10,000-meter road race in the 60-plus age bracket; he was even awarded a plaque for being the oldest participant.

In 1996, Goffberg was selected to carry the Olympic torch through Erie, Pennsylvania. Although he was suffering from cancer, he trained every day and was able to carry the torch. His cancer stabilized in 1998 and his doctor credited Herman's running four miles, five days a week, to the remission. In August 2001, at the age of 80, Goffberg finally succumbed to the cancer. Penn State track and field coach, Harry Groves (a member of the U.S. Track Coaches Association's Hall of Fame), said of Goffberg's influence at the University, "It is a great loss for our team and for Penn State...He tied the generations together between older alumni and new kids. People had a better understanding of the tradition and family that surrounds Penn State track and field from being around Herm."

Birth and Death Dates:
b. 1920 - d. Aug. 17, 2001

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1965)

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