Dr. Paul H. Glasser: A Son’s Reflections

Friday, Apr 17, 2020

I was 13 when we moved from Ann Arbor where my Dad was a professor in the School of Social Work at University of Michigan.  I believe he told me that when he was made Full Professor there, he was the youngest person to have received this honor in the history of the University. Dad graduated from high school at age 15 and City College of New York at age 18.  Even with a stint in the army during the Korean War under his belt, he was still very young to have climbed so high so fast.  Particularly at Michigan, which at the time was -- and I believe still remains -- one of the top social work schools in the country. 

My Father achieved this success with a relentless determination to get things done.  Dad was persistently honest, ethical, determined and had a very strong sense of justice, all of which he brought into the classroom and his work in the field.  I know that he wanted to make a difference in the world, in part because of the tough upbringing he had as the son of uneducated immigrant parents in the Bronx.  I remember him telling me that he worked so hard finishing his PhD dissertation that he literally burned out his eyes. 

The doctor told him that he could not read or do any work for two weeks so he could rest them, a particular torture for my Dad.  During many of my childhood nights, my sister Heather and I were lulled to sleep by the “clack clack clack” of the typewriter as he worked to complete his latest book or article.  

My father loved teaching and mentoring students and the exchange of ideas, something I witnessed firsthand at the many student and faculty dinners my parents threw.   And he was passionate about researching and publishing work in his chosen and rapidly expanding field.  Dad was a leading thinker and lecturer in many areas, including the behavior and dynamics of groups, child welfare, and marriage and family. My mother was at the time a teacher in the UM School of Public Health, and subjects on these topics invariably made their way into conversations at the dining room table and had a profound affect on who I became and how I see the world.  My parents’ careers ultimately led to me literally seeing the world as they took my sister and me with them on extended visits to Australia, Italy and The Philippines as Fulbright Hays Scholars.

When I was 13, we moved from the Michigan to Arlington, where my Dad accepted a position as Dean at the School of Social Work and my mother headed up Continuing Education for the University.  It was a bit of culture shock for all of us, moving from the liberal hotbed of Ann Arbor deep into the heart of Texas.  But we all plunged right in.  I remember my Dad being  concerned that he would become so wrapped up in administrative work that he would have to let go of teaching and writing, which were his true passion.  But Dad worked hard to advance the school, and was very proud of some of his accomplishments at UT Arlington, including bringing in a more diverse faculty, managing to hire top level professors, and dramatically increasing the number of faculty publications at the school.  Dad had a fondness for so many of the faculty and administrators at UT Arlington.  He also continued to teach and publish throughout this time, making sure he did not lose touch with what he loved most. 

Eventually, I went off to college in Pennsylvania, and I believe my father left UT Arlington in 1988, shortly after I graduated.  But he often spoke fondly of his years in Texas, and in many ways I believe that decade was the highlight of his career.  He had proven to himself that he could succeed as an administrator and still thrive academically.  For Dad, I think UT Arlington represented having the best of both worlds.  He was grateful for the opportunity he was given, the many friendships he made at UT Arlington, and the contributions he was able to make.