A tribute to Bill Glavin

The longtime magazine professor will forever be in the hearts of thousands of Newhouse students.

On Oct. 8, 2008, Bill Glavin shared this advice with the students in his critical writing course: when you write a profile about a person, you have to believe in that person. You have to know what makes them tick, what drives them, and you have to find what he called "the essence" of them.

I believe this about professor Glavin: as a teacher, mentor and friend, he found his way into the hearts of thousands and we are lucky to have known him.

"But know this; the ones that love us never really leave us."
- From Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

He came to Syracuse University in 1973, leaving behind a Good Housekeeping staff who had begged him to stay. Luckily for us, he ignored their pleas and pursued a job that I think he knew he was meant for.

He taught with wisdom and passion. In preparation for the first class he ever taught at Newhouse, he said he wrote down everything he knew about magazines on a pad of paper. He sat in front of the class, put his head down, and began to read from the list. When he finished reading, he looked up, expecting the 80-minute class period to be over. Only 30 minutes had passed. He dismissed the students, knowing he had plenty of room to grow. I had the privilege of sitting in his class 37 years later, and I can assure you he most certainly did.

He always put his students first. When a generous alumna and her family established the Glavin Magazine Lab, the Newhouse School hosted a classy reception in his honor. Alumni and industry legends traveled to Syracuse to celebrate him and thank him for his contribution to Newhouse and to the magazine world. As my friends and I discussed our surprise that they gave us real glasses instead of plastic, he approached us, mumbling that he didn’t know why they were making such a big deal for him. He seemed more concerned that we got enough to eat than he did with the fact that the editor in chief of The New Yorker had come to speak on his behalf.

He made us laugh. When we heard his hoarse voice take on a sarcastic tone, we couldn’t help but join him as he poked fun at bad writing, celebrity scandals and campus events. "You’ll find out who your friends are on that day," he told us when we heard that classes would be held on Mayfest. "I’d never give you a test, but some will." Even his handouts made us smile. Number 16 on a list of writing tips he gave us reads, "Write about people. The demand for articles about penguins is limited."

He celebrated our successes and put our failures in perspective. "Don't worry about being rejected," he told me in an e-mail last November. "It is a way of life for magazine people, and besides, this says far more about the people producing the program than it does about you. You will do fine. You have real talent and desire, and they will carry you as far as you wish to go."

He showed us compassion when we faced loss and sadness. When I lost a friend, he told me it was OK to be sad and he reminded me to take care of myself. He said what we never expect to hear from our professors: "There are many things more important than school." A year later, I passed him in the hallway of Newhouse 3. He said hello, then stopped, turned around, and said "How are you, Tory?" I knew he really wanted to know and he would be there if my answer was anything less than "great."

He wanted us to be happy. At the end of his magazine writing course, he gave a "last lecture" with advice for our careers and our lives. Though he made his statements quickly and without pomp or circumstance, I knew his words would stay with me. "Do what makes you happy," he told us. "Your parents want you to be doctors or lawyers, but that's only because doctors and lawyers make money and they think money will make you happy. Do what makes you really happy and the people that love you will be happy."

Above all, he loved us. He came to Newhouse everyday, sometimes even on the weekends, so he could be there for us. He shared with us his passion for Harry Potter, Casablanca, fly fishing, the Red Sox, and Gay Talese’s story about Frank Sinatra having a cold. He took the time to sit with us, answer our questions, calm our fears, and share our excitement about good things to come.

I wish he were here to read this, green pen in hand, to give me advice on which words to use to tell his story. Newhouse already feels a little colder and a quieter without his presence, but he will never truly leave us.

We will think of him when we read, when we edit, when we write. We will hear his voice when we cross out dangling modifiers and newspaper non-sequiturs. We will remember his mischievous half-smile when we watch the next commercial for the Harry Potter theme park. We will think of his advice when we take jobs, leave jobs, and find jobs that truly make us happy.

And we will remember him when we need a reminder that we are loved.

Celebration of the life of late Newhouse Professor Bill Glavin

UPDATE: A celebration of Glavin's life, wit and wisdom organized by students in Newhouse's magazine journalism department was May 12 in Hendricks Chapel.


For updates and to join other students in remembrance see the Facebook page

Bill Glavin's wishes

In typical Glavin fashion, his last provisions were for his students. Bill left a large part of his estate to the Newhouse School and the magazine department; he has established an endowment to make grants to students who need financial assistance to pursue summer internships in New York. He also wanted people to know that rather than flowers or memorials, the best way to remember him would be to join him in his efforts to continue to help the students who he devoted his life to teaching, advising, and mentoring.

If you are interested in contributing, please make a check out to:

Bill Glavin Endowed Internship Fund
The Newhouse School
Attn:  Melissa Chessher
215 University Place
Syracuse NY 13244-2100

Or you can make a gift on line by following this hyperlink:  http://campaign.syr.edu/
Be sure to mention the Glavin fund in the notes section.

Glavin on fly fishing

The professor produced this video about one of his favorite passions.

Student support

Several of Glavin's students shared their well wishes at the annual Relay for Life event in April.


I earned a magazine masters back in 1996, spending much of those two years hanging out in Glavin's little office. I think of him every time - every time - I find dead flies on my windshield in the spring. I'll never forget the time he asked what they looked like - were they FLIES? Or just dead bugs? I miss him. Thank you for this beautiful tribute. He would have been humbled. But pleased.

My thoughts exactly - though separated by 30 yrs!

Though I graduated from Newhouse in 1981, your piece could have been written then. I was also privileged to know Bill as my professor, mentor and for a brief time, as a friend, and feel exactly as you do, Tory. It's great to know he never wavered. Thanks for this - now I know more. I wrote about my memories and experiences as one of Bill's many mentees here:


Great piece, Tory

I couldn't think of a better person to write about Glavin, since the task takes such heart. Keep your chin up, Tory.

Thank You

Tory, like so many, I was heartbroken to hear about Professor Glavin. But I'm also thrilled to see the byline of this wonderful piece. From a quick look around this comment page and Twitter, it's clear that it resonates with those who knew him and knew of him. Congrats on your upcoming graduation and for writing this tribute.

Bill Glavin

I had the great fortune of having Bill on my doctoral dissertation exam committee. Sometime later I enjoyed several years as a colleague of his on the Newhouse faculty.

Words like "honor" and "integrity" can sometimes be regarded as clichés to describe someone, but with Bill it was the real deal. His great talents as a teacher and colleague were underscored with a healthy amount of humility. He was a terrific guy, and his passing is a terrible loss.

Amazing Tribute to an Amazing Person


Thank you for such a wonderful tribute to a man I wished I had known after reading your words. There are people in life you meet that stick with you and moments when you're with these people that stick forever--it sounds like Bill was one these people. Your words captured his "essence"--job well done.

Great Tribute

Thanks, Tory. This is a beautifully well written tribute to Bill Glavin. While I didn't have Bill in class, I certainly know of the amazing positive influence he's had on the lives of my friends and classmates and many other Newhouse students over the years. You've done a wonderful job sharing with the world what made Bill so special.

Jonathan Hoster (Newhouse Class of 2002)

Wonderful Glavin piece

Thank you, Tory. You clearly learned a lot from Bill and are already a talented writer. This is a great tribute to fantastic teacher, mentor and friend to all who touched Newhouse.

A well-written story on a

A well-written story on a wonderful man. He'd be proud, Tory.

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