Remembering my sister Jane Glazer … as teacher

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Jane Glazer at a trade show. This photo was recovered from her phone after the accident.

Five years ago today, my sister Jane Glazer, and brother-in-law, Larry Glazer, were killed in the crash of their private plane en route from Rochester to Naples, Fla. An apparent pressurization leak depleted oxygen, causing both to lose consciousness quickly. The plane flew unpiloted for nearly four hours before running out of fuel and crashing into the Caribbean Sea near the northeast coast of Jamaica.

Larry, CEO of Buckingham Properties, was one of Rochester’s influential developers of commercial real estate, and among the leaders of that field helping rebuild downtown. Jane was founder and president of QCI Direct, a mail order catalogue company that at her death employed more than 100 people. 

Local and even national media ran the story of the plane accident prominently. CNN reported throughout the day on what it called the “mystery plane”—although family members watching knew exactly who was in it. Broadcasts reported that U.S. Air Force fighter jets were ordered to fly alongside the plane to assess its condition and the condition of its pilot and passenger. 

After the crash, the Glazers were publicly mourned. “Sadness, Questions, Fill Void Left By Glazers,” said a Democrat and Chronicle headline. Another said simply, “Beautiful Souls.” Twelve days later, at Temple B’rith Kodesh in Brighton, more than 2,000 people turned out for a memorial service.

For me and other family members, it was a strange mixing of personal and public grief, not least because the local press quickly established a narrative of who Jane and Larry were: successful business owners, boosters of downtown and philanthropists.

That was all true, but in regard to my sister, it also missed an important point: that Jane was, at heart, a teacher.

Teaching was something she had a lifelong passion for and from the start was very good at.

I know this from personal experience. Seven years older than me, Jane was not only my big sister but also my first teacher. Just as an example, I remember on family road trips how we’d sit in the back seat and she’d write out whole pages of arithmetic problems for me to do. No doubt this was, in part, to keep me quiet, but even so I responded to her patience and encouragement. Her backseat tutelage—on one trip all the way from Rochester to California and back—helped me at a very young age to master multiplication tables and long division. 

Peter Lovenheim, Jane Glazer, and their father, Andrew Lovenheim, in 2012.

Jane’s first chosen career was as a middle school math teacher: first in New York City at the prestigious Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School, then back in Rochester at a middle school in Fairport and Hillel School, a private Jewish day school. 

Along the way, Jane earned a master’s in education at Nazareth College. She later served the school as a trustee. The new Glazer Music Performance Center at Nazareth, named for her and Larry, is a perfect tribute to Jane’s regard for education and love of teaching. It’s a beautiful space with magnificent acoustics; Jane would have loved it. If you haven’t been there yet to hear a concert, be sure to do so, and see the handsome oil portrait of Jane and Larry that hangs in the lobby.  

Some years after Jane had left the classroom to start her own business, she told me that what often gave her the most pleasure at work was helping entry-level employees advance. Ever the teacher, she encouraged them to continue their education, to take risks, and to expand their skills so they could build successful, independent lives—in short, to believe in their own capacity for achievement. Subtly, perhaps, she was encouraging them to adopt as a personal motto the company’s own can-do slogan: “Sure, No Problem.”

On this fifth anniversary of Jane and Larry’s deaths, I thought it fitting to let Beacon readers hear directly from those who knew Jane as both teacher and mentor, and were strongly influenced by her: first at Hillel School, then at QCI Direct.

Eve Lederman (Hillel School)         

“Jane reached out to me and meant more to me than any teacher I’ve ever had, both as a child and adult,” recalls Eve Lederman, formerly a student in Jane’s sixth-grade math class at Rochester’s Hillel Community Day School. “She was truly my closest connection as a child and our relationship shaped my life.”

Eve Lederman

Now an author and playwright, Lederman lives in New York City. Her play, “Nothing But the Truth” (which includes recollections of Jane), was produced in Ontario, Canada, in April. Lederman’s play “To Life” will premiere in New York City at Theater for the New City on Sept 19. 

“Jane lives on in my writing,” Lederman says. “I’ve memorialized her in my essays, spoken word, and plays. She was always supportive of my creativity. I gave her my first published book, and she told me she kept it on her jewelry box so she would see it every day.”

Here are excerpts from a remembrance Eve has written about her former teacher:

We wrote notes to each other. I’d slip one into Jane’s hand during sixth grade math—my scrawl laden with sadness—and she would press one into my palm before lunch. I’d trace every loop of her letters, follow each curve with my eyes.I’d stay after school, sitting next to her while she graded papers, pretending to be engrossed in my homework when I was completely absorbed in her. I had this ache—a constant state of panic because I thought nobody could fill a void so vast … but she did. Once she reached out and touched my hand and I grabbed on to it for dear life. I think I recall that moment more than my first kiss. She didn’t say a word, but I could feel her tenderness hanging in the air. She smiled at me like I mattered; she swept me up in her hope. 

My heart would surge when I saw her car pull into the parking lot. After I switched schools, I kept my eyes peeled for Jane’s wood-paneled station wagon and I’d whirl around to see if it was her.

I saved Jane’s letters for years in a shoebox and would pluck one out to read on lonely afternoons. It was like dipping into a box of chocolates; as time passed I didn’t know what would be inside the one I chose, so each note was a new delight.

I reconnected with Jane as an adult and twenty years later we arranged to meet. I thought she wouldn’t recognize me in the Starbucks swarm, but she looked up and said, “I’d know you anywhere.” We talked about my books and her business. “Come see my company,” Jane said with the giddiness of a schoolgirl. Before I could, she was killed when her small plane went down devoid of oxygen. Jane had written me one last letter after my own mother’s funeral. I keep it, like a precious gem, in my jewelry box.

Jeannette Conde (QCI Direct)

“The way I am now in dealing with people and the confidence I have in my own abilities, I learned all that from working with Jane,” says Jeannette Conde, a 15-year QCI Direct employee. “I never had such a close relationship with another employer as I had with her.”

Jeanette Conde

When Conde came to QCI in 2000, she’d just turned 26. Her first position was entry-level: as an operator in the call center. Before that, she had graduated high school, taken some courses at MCC in criminal justice, and worked at various jobs, including a women’s clothing store.

But within months, Jane started moving her up.

“Jane saw potential in me that I didn’t see,” Conde says. “There were times when she’d want me to do a certain job and I’d be hesitant, but she’d say, ‘Nope, you can do it.’ I was shy, but when I felt lost or thought I wasn’t learning something, I could walk into her office and she’d stop what she was doing to help me. She’d close the door, we’d sit down, and she’d say, ‘We’re going to do this together,’ and then she’d walk me through whatever it was I needed to learn. She had faith in me, and I felt it.”

In the call center, Conde was promoted to merchandising assistant. Later, she helped out as needed in the warehouse, then on the website. 

Jane Glazer with employees in the QCI warehouse.
(Photo courtesy of Rochester Business Journal.)

“She always wanted to promote me and even though I’d pull back, doubting if I could do it, she’d push me,” Conde recalls.

Conde was eventually promoted to manager. She remembers Jane’s ease working alongside the staff. 

“And Jane would always turn anything negative into a positive,” she continues. “Whether it was something personal or within the company, anything negative she’d always find a way to make it into a positive. I loved that about her.”

“She cared about her employees,” Conde says. “It wasn’t just on a professional level; it was on a personal level. She treated everyone fairly. And though she was the owner, she was humble and could easily be at everyone’s level. We’d have company barbeques and she’d be out there flipping hot dogs. I was so impressed; she was a beautiful person.”

Conde had hoped to stay at QCI permanently. 

“My goal was to retire and stay there until the very end,” she says. 

In fact, she did. Her last day was Dec. 31, 2015, the day—16 months after Jane’s death—when the company ceased operations.  

Currently, Conde works for University of Rochester Medicine at a primary care office. 

“I look back at my years at QCI, working side by side with Jane,” she recalls, “and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. I didn’t look at Jane as my boss. I looked at her as a friend, as a mother figure. Her loss was huge for me; it was tough. I’m in shock that it’s already five years.”

“Sure, no problem”

You couldn’t be Jane’s brother—anymore than you could be her student or employee—without wanting to try to emulate her upbeat, positive, and courageous attitude toward life. Those qualities, I think, are what allowed her at 21 to teach math to children at an exclusive Manhattan private school, then at a suburban Rochester school, then a religious day school; to be a loving partner and to keep up with a dynamo of a husband; to raise three children with energy and love; to start a business from scratch and create jobs for a hundred people; to be president of the Jewish Community Center, co-chair with Larry a WXXI capital campaign, help guide Nazareth College into the new century; to be an active grandmother of six young children; to be a caring and devoted daughter to our parents as they aged; and to be a supportive sister to my brother and me. Oh, and to train for and complete the New York City Marathon at age 50. Did I leave anything out?

It was that ability of Jane’s, as her former employee put it, to “turn anything negative into a positive” that those who knew her so wish to emulate. And yet, I don’t know how to turn the heartbreaking negative of my sister’s sudden death into a positive—except maybe to remember her and try to match her courageous approach to life. 

So, in Jane’s memory, as often as we’re able, let’s try to say to whatever life hands us, “Sure, no problem.”

Peter Lovenheim, journalist and author, is Washington Correspondent for the Rochester Beacon.

16 thoughts on “Remembering my sister Jane Glazer … as teacher

  1. Peter – what a stunning testament to your sister. I go by the garden at the corner of Highland and Goodman that is dedicated to her and a friend almost daily and think of her – a group I am in helped maintain the garden for a year. Sending much warmth to you. She and Larry are much missed in Rochester. – Jane Bleeg

  2. God bless the teachers of this world who are truly an inspiration and serve to impact their students in ways that are sometimes unknown but still very important. Thank you for remembering your sister in this tribute.

  3. Peter, thank you for such a loving tribute to Jane. We remember her for all the good that she and Larry have done. As hard as it is to forget that awful day, in time, I hope that the good memories will rise up to replace the bad. –Kathy Reed, WXXI

  4. I remember Jane when I worked at GLP. She’d walk by and say hello. I surprised her the day she got the whole in one at Irondequoit CC . She was surprised anyone knew. Then I use to see both of them when at St Joseph’s Villa when they were raising money to build the gym. They did a lot for Rochester.

  5. Peter: They were a special couple; each talented and successful in their own way. I was especially fond of Jane who I called upon to speak as a guest lecturer at one of my classes at the Simon Business School. The subject matter of the class was Entrepreneurship. Jane was the only guest speaker I invited back annually. She was an inspiration to so many students by discussing her business failures as well as her successes. One of my students was taken by her presentation and ultimately went to work for Jane and within six months, promoted to President of the company. Jane was again the teacher, my student (name withheld) absorbing the real-life business lessons from a sincere, compassionate and giving person; your sister Jane whose memory will live on as will her good deeds.
    Professor Dennis Kessler, S.J.D.
    Simon Business School
    University of Rochester

  6. This is lovely, Peter–poignant and powerful.

    Your portrait of Jane as teacher gives me fresh context for a conversation I had with her. Jane had just given me a tour of their house and gardens when we wound up by the front door, where (if I remember right) there were some striking bushes that looked Japanese. They had that old and twisted shape I associate with bonsai, though these were American shrubs that had not been trained with wires.

    When I expressed admiration for that effect, Jane launched enthusiastically into a brief, clear, point-by-point description of how she had pruned the bushes and how I could do it too at our house. I must have looked hesitant because she responded with a burst of reassurance about my abilities, along with a quick summary of key points. And when we left the gathering that afternoon, she called out down the driveway to me, “You can do it. Just do it! And send me pics of the results.”

    I wish I had written down her instructions while I still remembered them, as it was the wrong time of year to race home and try the new technique. But I remember thinking it was extraordinary how strongly that little conversation had affected me, how at ease and yet forceful in her enthusiasm and confidence Jane had been with someone she barely knew. And now I know why.

    • Amy–I remember that day well and it’s great that you and Jane were able to spend that time together. Thanks for sharing the memory! -xo,Peter

  7. Peter-
    Moving and distinctive tribute. Five years after their deaths, the sadness and shock persist. Their remarkable accomplishments for themselves and the community should serve as a challenge to follow their examples of leadership..
    All the best.

    …..Nick/

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