Portrayed by: William Daniels
Show: Disney’s Boy Meets World
George Feeny is a character unlike any other—a character who’s managed to inspire us at a young age in ways maybe our own teachers hadn’t managed to. At some point in all our lives we all wished we had a teacher like Mr. Feeny, and maybe we were fortunate enough to know one in our time.
In a way, he was a mentor for us all—“Believe in yourselves, dream, try, do good” has become a motto we follow as well. But apart from how he’s inspired us off-screen, it’s how he’s behaved on-screen that’s made the character incomparable.
George Feeny wasn’t just a teacher, but he was the kind of hero young people don’t realize they could ever have or need. The kind of unlikely friend even who’s in more ways a mentor, but one who sets an example for a what a friend should be like—kind, loyal, accepting, and encouraging. As human beings, we learn a great deal of truth from our families, but when we’re challenged to be brighter academically, there’s a different kind of growth that takes place. It’s what shapes so many of us, and a teacher’s compassion matters tremendously. And for a number of students in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia’s fictional school of John Adams High, Mr. Feeny served as inimitable inspiration.
George Feeny and The Deliberate Decision to Understand His Students
Mr. Feeny’s kindness was unparalleled. As someone who has experienced ridicule from teachers, I’ve always admired the way Mr. Feeny would address the students who weren’t A+ students like Topanga Lawrence or Stuart Minkus. In all situations, we’re accustomed to understand that kindness is the key, and while students are often rebellious, disciplinary action shouldn’t equate to harsh behavior or taunting.
Instead, George Feeny took it upon himself to understand his students beyond the surface level traits they showed, and in doing so, he built the kind of relationships with them that allowed them to feel safe as opposed to feeling judged. And while it may not have been evident at the time where they were younger, he persisted because he cared.
He persisted because he wanted them to succeed with every fiber of his being. An example of this, one that gets me choked up is when he tells Shawn Hunter that he does in fact know who he is even while a lot of adults didn’t bother to. The choice to mention his favorite band is indication of the fact that in spite of his rebellion, George Feeny has always seen what lies beyond. The choice to remain kind yet stern in the midst of keeping up an educator’s demeanor allowed for his students to know without a shadow of a doubt, that under his watch, they’d always be protected.
Mr. Feeny’s choice to never give up on his students allowed for viewers to understand that when those we care for mess up, we too, cannot give up on them. When the potential in a person is seen, it’s our job to make sure we help them become the very best versions of themselves and that could only be done through steadfast loyalty.
A person can reach their highest potential when they’re under the impression that there are people rooting for them, and people seeing the best in them. For people like Shawn Hunter especially, seeing men who don’t take the easy route allowed him to understand that not everyone would abandon him like his father. It allowed him to understand that there are people in the world who believe that discipline and hard work can result in unimaginable achievement.
Encouragement and Steadfast Belief
George Feeny’s persistence allowed someone like Eric Matthews to feel safe enough to see that when others ruled him out as a failure, someone who wasn’t family believed that he too could be successful in this world too. And when someone like Topanga Lawrence didn’t really understand what a true father’s objective was, Mr. Feeny was there to show her that it’s someone who believes that you’re special even when you’re imperfect. It’s someone who doesn’t put unrealistic pressure on you but rather encourages and assists.
A loyal figure in our lives is someone who we never have to impress because we’re forced to, but someone we admire so profoundly, we want to make sure they see the best of us as often as possible. It’s the belief that even when we fail, they won’t condemn or ridicule us but they’ll believe in us to rise even higher. That’s what George Feeny cemented throughout the course of Boy Meets World‘s seven season run.
Acceptance and loyalty go hand in hand, but in the example of Shawn Hunter and Eric Matthews, it was Mr. George Feeny’s encouragement that allowed them to find the means of success from within. At the end of the day, they needed to believe that they could in order to succeed. And though they didn’t immediately understand that everything Mr. Feeny did was to benefit them, growing older and experiencing life taught them the truth. It taught them that those who’ve remained by their side even when they haven’t been the best versions of themselves are the people who care the deepest, and Mr. Feeny has been a prime example of that. (Are we going to take a moment to cry about the fact that he officiated Shawn and Katie’s wedding? Let’s do it. Let’s cry about it. It could not have been anyone else.)
George Feeny never gave up on them, and because of that reason, they never gave up on themselves, thereby serving as proof of the fact that even when the whole world appears to be against us, if there’s at least one person in the world who believes, it could be enough.
The Life Lessons
There’s a lot George Feeny taught these lost kid (us viewers included), and it’s the fact that being a good person matters most in this life. We’re not all Topanga Lawrence in school. Sometimes we’re Shawn Hunter. Sometimes we’re the Cory Matthews. Sometimes we’re the Eric Matthews. Whoever we are, we’re special— there’s good in us and that goodness matters more than any letter grade that could ever be given. Our choice to extend a hand and to continuously try in life is the ultimate gift we can give ourselves and to those watching our actions.
And for Mr. Feeny to have made such an impact on viewers as well is actually indescribable. For the most part, I can always write too much, but there are some people you’ll never have the right words for and George Feeny is one of those people.
This isn’t meant to serve as a letter to a fictional teacher, but in a sense it is. I pray that if there’s one thing everyone in the world knows, it’s a teacher who doesn’t give up on them. And if you can’t seem to luck out in the area, then I hope you’ll turn your TV on to this remarkable show that’s bound to teach more than you could ever imagine. Mr. Feeny wasn’t just a gift in the lives of his students, but in our lives—I have tons of friends that will agree on this.
A hearty, round of applause to sir William Daniels whose portrayal was unparalleled—sublime and perfect in more ways than words will ever describe. The character would merely be words on a page without Daniels’ nuanced performances and heartfelt delivery of every single line.
That phrase superheroes don’t always wear capes? It was coined for characters like George Feeny. Class may have been dismissed long ago, but his lessons are still a huge part of so many lives.