John Jacob's Story

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Beloved husband, father, grandfather, friend and teacher at Pingree School, South Hamilton, Mass., died in Maine on August 8, 2017, after a short illness. His three children, John, Ian, and Charlotte, and his wife, Susie, were with him. John was about to turn 86 years old.
While he had a distinguished career as a lawyer at Ropes and Gray and Eastern Gas and Fuel, his real love was teaching. At the age of 60 he made a major career change and started teaching U.S. History and the Constitution at Pingree School in Hamilton, Mass. For the next 25 years until his retirement in June of this year, he was passionately engaged with the school, his students, teachers and former students. Dr. Kevin Schwartz ’96 summed it up this way, “It is no exaggeration to say that excepting my parents no one has had as profound influence on the course of my academic life and career as John Glessner.”
John was the son of a Harvard English professor and was born in Boston in 1931. While his father served as a World War II naval officer the family lived all over the United States before settling down at a dairy farm in Ipswich, Mass. After graduating from Harvard, John was drafted into the Army during the Korean War and served as a member of the Army’s counter intelligence core. One of his duties was to interrogate soldiers who had returned from captivity at the hands of the Chinese Army. John also served in the Pacific for six months and participated in the 1954 series of hydrogen bomb tests on the Enewetak atoll. When John left the Army he enrolled at Columbia Law School and then spent the next 18 years practicing law in Boston. Early on in his legal career John participated in a supporting role for a legal team arguing a case before the Supreme Court. This was a watershed event that led, over time, to his passionate curiosity about constitutional law and the role of the Supreme Court. John was always more interested in the intellectual background of the law and how the genesis of law is revealed in conversations and debates surrounding key Supreme Court decisions.
John started teaching in the History Department at Pingree School in 1992.
The number of alumni who directly credit John with equipping them with the knowledge, skills and confidence to succeed not just in college but in their ongoing professional lives is legendary “were it not for John Glessner, I would not be where I am today” is a common refrain.
For many summers, John went to the Gaelic College on Cape Breton Island to study bagpiping. He also participated in a piping program in Barga, Italy, and piped at events at the Pingree School and on the athletic fields of Middlebury College.
While John and his family lived in Ipswich his real love was Maine where he sailed as a young man and lived during the summers in Muscongus Bay.
It was here on his beloved Otter Island that he died. He is survived by his wife, Susie; son, John and his wife, Tracy, and their children, Emma and Catherine, of Yarmouth, Maine; son, Ian of Ipswich, Mass.; and daughter, Char and her husband, Jonathan Monié, and their children, Henry and Lily of Ipswich, Mass.
A celebration of John’s life will be held at Ascension Memorial Church, 31 County St., Ipswich, on September 30, at 10:30 a.m.
In lieu of flowers, to honor John's love of learning and teaching, contributions may be made in his memory to Pingree School in support of student financial aid and academic programs (Pingree School, 537 Highland Street, S. Hamilton, MA 01982 or at www.pingree.org).
Published on  August 28, 2017
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