To the uninformed eye, in the North Edison neighborhood that first the Wardlaw School and thereafter the Wardlaw-Hartridge School's Upper School campus called home in the late 1970's Tom Glasser might have appeared to be the most unpopular boy on campus. On Autumn afternoons, if one drove down Inman Avenue or walked around the campus then one was likely to see Tom running and being pursued - in vain more often than not - by a pack of boy runners wearing uniforms different than his. Chasing they did often. Catching up? They did that far less. One became less concerned for Tom's well-being when one discovered that the chase was a sanctioned activity. It was not a prelude to Forrest Gump. It was a cross-country meet.
Tom Glasser graduated in 1978 as a member of the first class of the newly coeducational Wardlaw-Hartridge School. He took his prowess, both academic and athletic, to Haverford College. He starred on the track team at Haverford. In 1982, at his graduation from Haverford he was awarded the Varsity Cup - awarded to the best athlete in the senior class. Among the beautiful words his good friend Kevin Foley (whose tribute I stumbled upon in researching this piece) used to describe Tom Glasser were these:
Actually Tom was perhaps the best pure athlete I ever knew. The guy carried Haverford on his back through four years of dual meets, especially the four times we faced Swarthmore. He could run any race from the 100 up, he was always one of the top 400-meter runners in the conference, and was perennial conference champion in the high jump, indoors and out. And in his senior year he took up the 800 meters and qualified for nationals! He won a gold medal for the USA in the 4x400 relay at the Maccabiah Games in Israel. He ran on a winning 2-mile relay team for the New York Athletic Club at the 1985 Millrose Games in Madison Square Garden.
Tom Glasser majored in philosophy at Haverford. Among his graduation prizes was the one he received for his senior thesis, "The Metaphysics of Track." In the interests of full disclosure I am constrained to confess that I have never read it. Given that Tom Glasser forgot more about philosophy and track than I have ever learned about either discipline that is probably best for all concerned.
Professionally, Tom Glasser was a Partner at Sandler O'Neill. He proved to be as successful on Wall Street as he had been on Inman Avenue and as he had been on the Main Line. Personally, he was Meg's husband and Dylan and Luke's father, which roles he relished above all other:
Above all, Tom was a husband and a father. In his last few years he married and had two sons and wasn’t seen around town much after the dinner hour. His wife Meg saved his life, he said, and there’s no doubt that was so. He was quietly happy and terribly in love. He said he had finally found the person who understood him and they both said they knew almost immediately. She was Myrna Loy to his William Powell.
There is not a unit of measure known in this world by which Tom Glasser was not extraordinary. Ten years ago this Sunday, people who had never met Tom Glasser nor gotten to know him took him away from his family, his friends and his life.
Or so they thought. They were wrong. Because strength always gives strength. Faith always gives faith. Hope always gives hope. And love always gives love.
There is an extraordinary undertaking that I happened upon quite accidentally about one week ago. It is entitled "Project 2,996: Remembering the Victims of 09/11" and its mission is equal parts inspiring and daunting. Tom Glasser and I are graduates of the same high school. He graduated W-H in 1978. I graduated W-H in 1985. He had two sisters who also graduated from our Alma mater, Laura and Margie, although Laura graduated "pre-merger" from Hartridge in '76. Margie graduated in 1982. Her class was bookended by those that included my sisters Kara and Jill, who graduated in 1981 and 1983 respectively. Tom Glasser has - at least to the best of my knowledge - the sad distinction of being the only W-H alumni who was among the 2,996 souls murdered on September 11, 2001.
Annually since she has been the Varsity Soccer Coach at W-H, Jackie MacLean's girls have participated as a team in the Tunnel To Towers Run. In doing so, they honor the memories of all those who died that day. They honor the families who lost those loved ones and who grieve for them every day. In doing so, they do their part to do a little something for those in need.
I tend to use this space foolishly - even recklessly - on occasion. It was not my intention today to do so. I hope that I have met my mark. I hope that in doing this, I have done just a little to honor the memory of this particular extraordinary gentleman, the life he lived, the ones he loved and those who loved him....