It's 10 a.m. and William Glavin, a professor in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, is sitting at a table in the school's snack bar, Food.com, sipping a cup of coffee. A student approaches and asks him to sign forms for her upcoming internship at Elle magazine in New York City. He asks if she knows a Newhouse alumna who's an Elle staffer. She doesn't, but he encourages the student to meet her. "Tell her I'll be in New York in the fall at Lubin House," Glavin says. "And tell her to be there!"
This enthusiasm for reconnecting with a former student is typical of the magazine journalism professor who, in nearly 25 years of teaching at Newhouse, is one of the school's most beloved instructors. He has developed and nurtured a multitude of friendships with Newhouse graduates, old and new. Glavin has undoubtedly helped shape the career of many a magazine editor, and he's a pretty good fly fisherman, too. However, he counts as his biggest accomplishment being "part of so many wonderful relationships with former students."
Glavin began his career as a copyboy at The Boston Globe. The Northeastern University graduate then went to work for the CBS television affiliate in Boston. After attending Columbia University's graduate program in magazine journalism, he became an associate editor at Good Housekeeping. But Glavin longed to teach, and the opportunity arrived when a letter from SU seeking a magazine professor landed on the desk of his editor-in-chief. "Anybody got any friends?" the editor scrawled across the top. "Yes, me," Glavin replied.
He traded Manhattan's frenetic pace for the tranquillity of Central New York and hasn't looked back, reveling in teaching and casting his fly rod in upstate streams. "Some people would say I'm not ambitious enough, that I should have stayed in New York," he says. "I'm happy that I was right about what I wanted to do, that I dared to do it, and that I made it through the first couple years."
Initially, teaching proved more challenging than he'd expected. "For my first class, I wrote everything I knew about editing in a notebook and read it straight through without looking up," Glavin says. "I thought two hours had gone by, but it had only been 20 minutes." He dismissed the class early. "A group of extremely forgiving students kept me here," Glavin confesses. "I still get nervous before the first class of every semester."
He shouldn't. In 1995, the University awarded Glavin one of its first three Meredith Professorships, which recognize teaching excellence. It's no surprise then that Glavin remembers what those first students, the thousands who have followed them, and his mentor at Columbia taught him: the importance of respect and caring, recognizing that students are doing their best. Glavin's care extends to sharing advice with students, helping them with job contacts, and forging bonds that span the years. "When I first got here, the department had a lot of graduates who weren't really tied to the school," he explains. "I figured if people felt I did a good job with them, they'd be more eager to hire my students. I enjoy talking to and dealing with my former students, and I really care about them."
Newhouse magazine journalism professor William Glavin emphasizes to his students the importance of writing effectively. The Meredith Professor also maintains contacts with alumni, forging relationships that reflect his concern for their lives and careers.
His conversations with alumni about the editorial decisions and ethical dilemmas they face often fuel his classroom discussions. Glavin's students also appreciate his emphasis on the nuts and bolts of writing effectively. "He's really good at teaching the fundamentalsit's a lost art I don't get from many other teachers," says Chris Chiappinelli G'98. "He's kind of a relic, but in a good way."
Has Glavin accomplished everything he set out to do the day he responded to his editor's memo? "There are students I haven't met yet," he replies. And you know he's looking forward to having them in class.