Tuesday, August 3, 2010

My Valentine to Glavin

When I went to our editor's apartment last week, I got to talking with our magazine intern, who I learned who not only goes to Syracuse University, but has the same magazine major as I did. We were talking about our common professors, and she informed me that one of my favorite teachers, Bill Glavin, died in May. I found out that he had lung cancer back in March, and I meant to send a card....hearing that news, what a punch in the gut.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I haven't many positive things to say about my experience at Syracuse, but the one thing that did keep me there was my major. I know it's hard to believe this now because my life feels so full, but when I say that I did not have any friends in college, I really do mean I did not have any friends. (okay, one...senior year). I was such a loner and spent all of my time studying. I was so quiet that my teachers didn't really notice me, but I loved my major and I adored my magazine professors, including Prof. Glavin.

I had him for two classes: Intro to Magazines and Magazine Article Writing. He had worked in the magazine industry years ago but was basically a writing teacher by profession. That was his passion. He just loved good writing and loved spreading his love of good writing. He told funny stories and had a good laugh. If he wasn't in the classroom, he'd be outside, shivering his ass off in the snow, smoking a cigarette. In the summers, he went fly-fishing in Montana. He loved The New Yorker and A River Runs Through It.

I was too shy to really say much to him, but I greatly valued his opinion, and I trusted anything he wrote on my papers. He was a fine editor, often scribbled nice things (keep writing! you're a great writer!), not only to me, but to everyone because he knew that writing was hard and the best way to make it better was to encourage it. I always imagined, to this day, if I ever wrote a book or a screenplay or whatever, he would be one of the first people I would send it to.

The last day of article writing class, which was one of my last classes in college ever, I remember he basically gave us a speech about life that left a big impression on me. I used to keep a journal during that time of my life and looked over the weekend if I had written about the speech. I had: "He basically told us to do what makes you happy. He said that only you can define your personal success and no one else can. There will be times in your life when you just have to follow your gut. Do it, even if everyone things you are wrong." His words meant a lot to me then and it means a lot to me now.

The last time we "spoke," I had emailed him about quitting my job and going to Europe. He immediately wrote back: "Congratulations! Your plans sound great. I am a great believer in pursuing passions, particularly for the young." He told me to keep in touch and said that my trip really interested him. He talked about how he was feeling sick and was taking medical leave but all he could think about was going back to teaching.

Even though we were never super close, I feel so sad about his passing. I found myself bursting into tears a few times. I think it's because when I think back to my time in Syracuse, I was so lonely and no one ever noticed me. And he is one of the few people who believed in me--even if it was just a little bit--and who I actually cared about in return. Years have gone by and I have a much better support system now than I ever did then. I haven't spoken to him in years. But I still, since I found out, I miss him having my back. It's like he was there all along, and I never felt it until he was gone.

Here is another nice tribute.

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