Stepping up to the Bradley challenge, President Joanne K. Glasser embraces her leadership role on campus. Four months into her first season, she has certainly been a hit.
Bradley University students now have their own personal cheerleader on campus. President Joanne K. Glasser has arrived, and the BU community is infused with her contagious enthusiasm. The Baltimore native exudes warmth, wit, and a willingness to make a major difference in everyone’s lives — especially the students’.
“I’ve always believed, for my own two children as well as everyone’s children, that they must find their passion in life,” says Glasser. “You have to find your own area of interest and creativity, if you will. When you find your life’s calling, something you love doing every day, then it’s really not work.”
Glasser has been busy meeting and listening to students, faculty, and staff, while learning the campus culture. She encourages students to explore many options, opportunities, and venues at Bradley. She says what interests them in their 20s may not be a career choice they’ll continue later in life. She cites her own experience as an example of why she stresses the significance of lifelong learning and exploring.
Alicia Pettigrew ’10, Darius McGee ’11, and Ariana Lee ’11 join Glasser at the annual Block Party on Fredonia Avenue during Welcome Week.
When Glasser worked for a Baltimore newspaper as a high school student, she caught the “journalism and public relations bug.” She says being immersed in that early newsroom experience, the constant responsiveness, intense interaction, and quick pace of events have brought her where she is today.
“I love the unpredictability of a day’s events,” says the energetic president. “I find it very, very exciting and constantly challenging.” Nevertheless, a career in journalism or public relations was overshadowed by a powerful epiphany. Her sense of social justice and her social conscience was raised after reading To Kill a Mockingbird. She reflects on the influence of the author, Harper Lee: “Oftentimes, we don’t realize the impact that we have or that we’re going to leave in that moment in time. It’s later, when others reflect upon our life’s work and our contributions, that it takes on more significance than any of us ever thought possible.” She decided to pursue a law degree in an effort to help people in a meaningful way.
“I loved practicing law, loved the challenge intellectually, socially, and personally,” says Glasser. “Somewhere down the road, around midlife, I couldn’t quite figure out what was missing. When I had the opportunity to move into higher education, I realized that was it. Working with young people has been so fulfilling personally and professionally. And who knows what the next chapter in my life’s journey will be? I really look at life as a journey, not a destination.”
Although she was not looking for a new position, the Bradley presidency came to her attention through a search firm and other contacts. She notes Bradley is viewed in the world of higher education as an elite, private, comprehensive institution with nationally recognized academic programs. In addition, faculty, scholars, and researchers are doing cutting-edge work in their disciplines and are committed and dedicated to teaching and passionate about opening doors of opportunities for young people.
Glasser visits with Marty Weiss ’08 at Sigma Theta Epsilon’s table as she meets students and learns about various student organizations during the Activities Fair.
“It didn’t take long for Bradley to captivate my interest,” says Glasser. “I was also impressed with the larger Peoria region in terms of the relationship it holds with major healthcare organizations, the fine and performing arts, and Bradley’s unique relationship with Caterpillar and all it brings to the University and region. I was intrigued and incredibly interested by the success of alumni who have passed through the doors throughout the years.”
During a mid-September interview in her Swords Hall office, the diminutive president cited connecting with and engaging as many alumni as possible as a top priority. She plans to travel the country and listen to what made their experiences so meaningful. “If we truly believe that the past is prologue, it’s important that I reconnect with our alumni to help shape and define our vision for the future and our road map of how we’re going to get there,” says Glasser.
As the vice chair of the NCAA Division Committee on Athletics Certification and vice chair of the Executive Subcommittee, Glasser values what intercollegiate athletics brings to the University, the student-athletes, and the “proud alumni who continue to follow their teams.” The former high school cheerleader maintains that she will be visible at sporting events and be the “number one cheerleader and supporter for the Braves.”
In the short time she has been here, Glasser has formulated some initial thoughts about the physical campus. After all, she came to Bradley from Eastern Kentucky University, which touts itself as one of the most scenic college campuses in the nation. She finds the Quad area and its surrounding academic buildings to be “absolutely charming and quite lovely. It seems to be a gathering place and gives a sense of community.” She adds, “I would like to look at some different kind of signage that will showcase that you are entering the Bradley campus.” Glasser also wants to add more color around the Lydia Moss Bradley statue.
“Lydia Moss Bradley was such an extraordinary woman of great courage, vision, character, and compassion that I hope she is smiling with pride, not only about how her dream has grown and flourished over the past 110 years, but how she paved the way for a woman to continue that dream and her mission for this institution,” says Glasser. Although she has the distinction of being both Bradley’s and EKU’s 10th president and first female president, Glasser does not want gender to be the defining characteristic of her leadership. She prefers to be defined by the experience, traits, and values that she brings to the position.
Former Congressman Robert Michel ’48 HON ’81, left, and Congressman Ray LaHood ’71 recently co-hosted a reception for alumni and friends to meet Glasser at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington, D.C. © Max Taylor
“I think integrity is the cornerstone of anyone’s reputation,” comments Glasser. “At the end of the day, all we have is our reputation, and that’s what we leave behind us. I’ve tried to live my life through my mother’s wonderful heart. Her philosophy is that it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice. I try to be mindful of my remarkable 86-year-old mother’s many life lessons. I try to wake up every day and hopefully enrich the lives of others, try to treat people right, and always have a sense of kindness and compassion, because you never know what’s going on in someone’s life.”
Her passion for diversity turned into the Joanne K. Glasser Leadership Endowment Scholarship following an outpouring of financial support at her EKU inauguration. “Growing up in Baltimore and going to school in Washington, D.C., I was the product of a very diverse neighborhood, school system, and community,” says Glasser. “It helped shape and define who I am as a person.” She said she has raised her children to realize more unites people as human beings than divides them. The diversity scholarship enables deserving minority students access to higher education. It continues to produce enough revenue to award scholarships for decades to come, and she is “very proud of that legacy and all the lives it has touched and will continue to enrich.”
While Glasser has discovered beauty, friendliness, history, and culture in each area of the country she’s lived in, she looks forward to exploring the Midwest and feeling at home on the Hilltop. “While I will always look back on my Chesapeake Bay crab cakes and Kentucky mint juleps with great affection, I look forward to developing new tastes, acquiring new interests here, and starting new memories in my scrapbook of life.”
Just the Facts...
Widowed, two children: Jared, a graphic designer in Baltimore; Jacqueline, a senior at Duke University.
George Washington University, BA in political science
University of Maryland School of Law, Juris Doctorate
Harvard University Graduate School of Education, Institute of Education Management Certificate
Eastern Kentucky University, president (2001–2007)
Towson University, executive vice president; chief advancement officer; executive assistant to the president; and affirmative action officer
Baltimore County Labor Commissioner; assistant county attorney; and bailiff and law clerk for the Baltimore City Circuit Court
One trait people notice about her: She stands 5 ft. tall.
One trait people may not notice about her: She’s left-handed.
One thing she can’t live without: A sense of humor.
One daily indulgence: Chocolate!