You left us in person, but your spirit will not be resting in peace; it will be goading us on from afar. Any of us who ever experienced your tireless innovating and theorizing, your persistent engagement, and your passionate drive to make the world a better place will meet your memory around many a curve of our forward road. Let’s raise a craft brew high in a place where live-and-local fills the air: to the long, long legacy of John’s wit, writ, wisdom and truly remarkable mental wonderlust!

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John Glazer, 69, left this world peacefully, in the arms of his beloved, from his rural Athens, Ohio home on 13 November 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, at 15, the Monsignor of his seminary with a demand that the Father state from the pulpit his privately-asserted agreement that the US engagement in Vietnam was wrong.Hearing the response that such public repudiation of those in power would be politically inadvisable, John abandoned both his faith and his more conservative family for new vistas and new associates whose intellectual rigor and commitment to social justice were legendary.

Key among John’s mentors in his new base at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor—a nexus of that era of 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, driving them into Canada.He was an antiwar protestor (first as an enthusiastic teenager teargassed for the first time on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in DC and 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 or peaceful protest.John chose the latter, along with his colleague Frithjoff, who initiated the first of the era’s peaceful “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 their 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 realized how to be a white male in a world heavily skewed toward the white male prerogative, and solidified his lifelong dedication to the oppressed, the voiceless, and the underserved.

When his beloved two children were born, John prioritized parenting and family support over the lecture hall, started a consulting business, and then joining the staff of bookstore franchiser Little Professor’s headquarters.John was named, in 1992, 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 found a job posting for the Director 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 initial decade for the Ohio University Voinovich School’s TechGROWTH program.His professional team guided hundreds of regional enterprises and entrepreneurs through enterprise development, often to successful funding.For those with appetite for his all-in style, John never stinted time for clients - whether working day, after hours, weekends or wee hours.His was significant and sustained support for successful enterprises on a vast continuum of innovators old and new: from Ohio Brew Week to Serenity Grove, Habitat for Humanity to Ecolibrium Solar, and tens and tens of others.

In 2018, John initiated the now three-year-old federally-funded program whose scope encompassed his life’s work.The Social Enterprise Ecosystem offers hands-on professional coaching and capital access to businesses that fill a vital social mission and also sell goods and services.John spearheaded the development 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 hiscontinuing 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 is here:

John’s memory is held in the heart by his son Nick Glazer; daughter Emma Gardner, husband Steve and two granddaughters; partner and best friend 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, donations are suggested to a fund created to honor and continue John’s enduring legacy for local social enterprises: John Glazer Impact Fund was inaugurated with the Athens County Foundationby Eli Flournoy and Hylie Voss, Mark and Wanda Weinberg, and Carol Beale and Faith Knutsen, in honor of John’s dedication to entrepreneurial spirit and his indomitable drive to advance sustainable, impact-driven enterprise.
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