John Glazer Obituary

John  Glazer
John Glazer

October 23, 1951 - November 13, 2020
Born in Philadelphia, PA
Resided in Athens, Ohio
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John Glazer, 69, left this world peacefully, in the company of his partner, at his rural Athens, Ohio home on November 13, 2020.

It was John’s habit to complete any request to others with “No is an okay answer.” Yet John lived by the premise that “yes” was always his own answer, whether that was the “slow yes” for his startup clients (to counter the investment capitalists’ “quick no”); the perennial “yes” to a few craft brews and a long talk about aspirations and evidence of things to come; the qualified “yes, and at the same time…..” to those with whom he had differences; or a twinkle-eyed “yes, but don’t get caught!” to mischievous children in his care. John was a man who lived “yes” to its fullest, from his earliest to his last days, with and for everyone he met. His “yes” eagerly met, with equal vigor, the world’s grittiest realities and the heights of intellectual exploration.

Born in 1951, the third of four in a working-class Philadelphia German-Irish Catholic family, John faced the cognitive dissonance of his times head-on. He confronted, in his teens, his diocesan Monsignor with a demand that the Father state from the pulpit his privately asserted agreement that the US engagement in Vietnam was immoral. Hearing the response that public repudiation of those in power would be politically inadvisable, John abandoned both his faith and his more conservative family for different vistas and associates whose intellectual rigor and commitment to social justice were legendary.

Key among John’s mentors in his new home at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor—nexus of that era’s radicalism—were the late Stan Ovshinsky, renowned engineer and technology innovator; and Frithjoff Bergmann, emeritus professor of philosophy. John entered into a deep engagement with the justice, equity, and peace movements of the 1970’s that formed his bedrock beliefs. He counseled draftees opposed to the conflict, chauffeuring them to Canada. He was a frequent antiwar protestor (initially as an enthusiastic teenager teargassed for the first time on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in DC; later as a leader, bludgeoned with a rifle butt while stepping aside for the police charging occupiers on the U of M campus). He joined heated debate regarding violent vs. peaceful protest. John chose the latter, along with his colleague Frithjoff, who initiated the first of the era’s “teach-ins.” John threw himself into the social melting pot, learning to be an active supporter of causes not inherently his own. Black friends welcomed this interested radical, introduced him to R&B, and educated him in the rationale for their own struggles. Female friends opened his eyes to the gender divide. One sought John’s help with the outcome of an abusive relationship, affording him a searing lesson when he escorted her to, and sought medical assistance for her after, a difficult backstreet abortion. John defined how to be a white male in a world heavily skewed toward the white male prerogative, and in doing so solidified his lifelong dedication to the oppressed, the voiceless, and the underserved.

When his much-adored children were born, John prioritized parenting and family support over the lecture hall, started a consulting business, and then joined the staff of bookstore franchiser Little Professor’s headquarters. In 1992, John was named CEO of this largest association of independent booksellers. Simultaneously, he started and collaborated on multiple social enterprises in locations as disparate as Detroit’s Highland Park and Centurion, South Africa. When online outlets took over the book business, John’s job hunt identified an opening for the directorship of a new program aiding technology startups in Appalachian Ohio. His immediate reaction: “That’s impossible. I’ll apply!”

John’s leadership, innovation, and unstinting dedication to regional clientele was a significant factor in a successful inaugural decade for the Ohio University Voinovich School’s TechGROWTH program. His professional team guided regional enterprises and entrepreneurs through their development phase, often to successful funding. For clients with appetite for his all-in style, John never stinted time - whether during the working day, after hours, weekends or wee hours. His significant and sustained support helped all nature of applicants, from first-timers to the deeply experienced: Ohio Brew Week, Serenity Grove, Habitat for Humanity, Ecolibrium Solar, Solid Ground School - and multiple dozens of others.

In 2018, John initiated the now three-year-old, federally funded program whose scope encapsulated his life’s work. The Social Enterprise Ecosystem provides hands-on professional coaching and capital access to businesses that fill a vital social mission and also sell goods and services. John spearheaded the advancement of the “Social Return on Investment” methodology, which defines social impact in simple financial terms. In his last months, John’s lectures for Ohio University’s inaugural Social Entrepreneurship class underscored his continuing exploration of the complex interplay between access to, and complicity in, the sources of power: from the machinations of the investment hierarchy to the monetary system. An evocative excerpt from his last lecture, underscoring his self-definition as “an applied philosopher,” is here:

John’s memory is held in the heart by his son Nick Glazer; daughter Emma Gardner, husband Steve and two granddaughters; partner Faith and her offspring Lark and Rowan Knutsen; his sister Gerry Knapp and sons JB and Chad Ritchie; brother George Glazer and family, and innumerable relations, connections, friends, clients, and mere passers-by and correspondents who enjoyed so many vibrant interactions.

In lieu of flowers, please join in creating the John Glazer Impact Fund to honor and continue John’s enduring legacy of working tirelessly and joyfully to support local social enterprises: Glazer Impact is established at the Athens County Foundation by Faith Beale Knutsen, Carol Beale, Mark and Wanda Weinberg, Hylie and Bruce Voss, and Don, Eli and Jill Flournoy, in honor of John’s dedication to entrepreneurial spirit and his indomitable drive to advance sustainable, impact-driven enterprise.

A virtual memorial service is planned for December and will be announced on the John Glazer Impact Fund site and in the media.

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Mid-Ohio Valley Cremation Society
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