Syracuse University Magazine

Legacy of a Teacher


He was a Boston native with the accent to prove it; a fly-fishing junkie who made a pilgrimage to Montana every year; a journalist who had worked in television, newspaper, and magazine; and a smart aleck, forever producing verbal zingers. But most of all, Bill Glavin was a teacher. And that's how he was remembered—with a great outpouring of love and gratitude—following his death in May at age 67. 

Glavin joined the Newhouse School's magazine department faculty in 1973. He was 30 years old and had already found success in journalism, working on The Boston Globe's news desk before joining Good Housekeeping as an editor. He was being groomed for the magazine's top editorial position, but he left New York for academe. Although he later said he knew next-to-nothing about teaching when he arrived in Syracuse, he had clearly found his calling, as legions of students would later attest. "He was legendary as a great instructor and advisor," former student Joseph D'Agnese '86 says. "[But] the thing that really set Glavin apart is what happened outside the classroom. He was known as a teacher who cared deeply about students, and he gave of himself again and again without hesitation." 

It was his skill and dedication that earned him the respect of students and colleagues alike. "The Glavin formula was part pure-and-simple work ethic and part pure-and-simple magic," says Melissa Chessher, chair of the magazine department. "There will never be another Glavin. He was the perfect storm of passion, talent, and sacrifice." 

Glavin taught for 37 years, including 15 as department chair, and never once reduced his course load, according to Chessher. He was in his office every weekday, and sometimes Saturdays, because he always wanted to be accessible to his students. "The great message of his career was that students come first," she says. 

That dedication led to his being chosen as one of the first three recipients of Syracuse University's highest teaching honor—the Meredith Professor for Teaching Excellence—in 1995. In 2008, the Glavin Magazine Lab was funded and named in his honor by Stacey Mindich '86, one of D'Agnese's classmates. 

Late last spring, Glavin was diagnosed with lung cancer. When news of his illness went public, the Newhouse School set up a web site where friends and former students could leave well-wishes. Messages of love and support flooded the site, and continued to come even after his death on May 7. "Your lessons and advice pop into my head at least a few times every day, and I'm a better person and professional because of them," wrote one alumnus. "I proudly count myself among the many who can trace back much of my drive to tell good stories—and tell them well—to what I learned in your classes," wrote another. 

But Glavin had always been modest about his teaching skills, perhaps even embarrassed by the adoration. "I think they give me too much credit for having changed their lives," he said in a recent interview with a student. "I tell them, ‘No, I didn't do that. You knew how to do that already. I just helped you.'"  —Wendy S. Loughlin

In his final days, Professor Glavin established an internship fund to provide financial assistance to deserving magazine students. Donations may be made to the Bill Glavin Endowed Internship Fund, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, 215 University Place, Room 400, Syracuse NY 13244-2100; or online at (indicate Glavin Fund). 

Photo by Lauren Sykes