Growing up in Bethlehem, Penn., Dan Glazier observed his parents regularly practice tzedakah. His mother, a social worker, and his father, a dentist, made giving to others a priority. Glazier remembers his father's dental practice was "in some ways like a social service agency" because of the reduced and free dental care he donated. Their influence led to Glazier's interest in practicing law to advocate for the disadvantaged members of society.
At Syracuse University, Glazier focused on his goal of helping those in need. He first considered criminal law, but thought his people skills could be put to better use helping larger groups of society improve their lives. He majored in social work, but still wondered how he could use law for making positive changes.
When he learned about the joint Juris Doctor and Master of Social Work degree at Washington University in St. Louis, he said he found what he was looking for. Throughout graduate school, Glazier worked as an intern at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri (LSEM), which provides civil legal representation to people with low incomes.
After graduating, Glazier received a Reginald Heber Smith Fellowship, which allowed him to work with community groups as a Legal Services lawyer.
For the next two years, Glazier concentrated on public benefits law. From there, he transitioned into housing, where he focused his efforts for the next 21 years. During that time, he represented low-income tenants and specialized in working on behalf of St. Louis' homeless.
In 2005, Glazier became Executive Director of LSEM, which allowed him to "have an effect on our mission in a greater way. I could still work for the agency I love - I care so passionately about what we stand for."
As executive director, Glazier puts into practice his fundamental believe that law and social work can be combined to achieve greater good. The agency works to help approximately 17,000 individuals each year. He said LSEM practices "holistic advocacy," matching legal services with social resources for clients. "Our goal is to help our clients to first survive and ultimately thrive," Glazier said.
Recently, Glazier's job has not been without obstacles. With the downturn of the economy, Legal Services' clients have increased while funding has decreased. "The need exceeds the resources," he explains.
However, Glazier has confidence that St. Louisans will continue charitable donations to Legal Services. "We're hopeful that the tradition of tzedakah that permeates the Jewish community will spread throughout the whole St. Louis community." He asks those with stable incomes to consider those affected by the negative economy. "If you're hurting, the people we represent, those just trying to hang on, are hurting even worse."
Glazier's passion for helping the impoverished permeates his volunteer activities within the Jewish community. "My involvement in the Jewish community is an extension of who I am and who I am is fueled by my involvement in the Jewish community," he said. As a member of the Jewish Community Relations Council, Glazier sits on the social justice sub-committee and on the tikkun olam steering committee at his synagogue, Central Reform Congregation.
The concept of tikkun olam, repairing the world, motivates Glazier at Legal Services and in his everyday life. He and his staff at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri "hope to keep the American dream alive for our clients," he says. He continues to feel privileged by helping others. "I've been able to live out what I wanted to do since childhood - working with people and trying to make a difference."
Thomas G. Glick, a principal with Dana McKitrick Attorneys at Law, and the recently named President of the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis, has known Glazier for the past 10 years. Glick joined LSEM's Volunteer Lawyer Program and helped work on housing cases. At the time, Glazier was the co-manager of the Housing Division at LSEM.
"Dan was an excellent attorney in the courtroom and I remember feeling badly for the clients assigned to me as opposed to Dan because my courtroom skills were not nearly so well honed as his," said Glick.
Later, Glick would serve on LSEM's board, and he remembered that sentiment when the board was hiring a new Executive Director/General Counsel.
Glick voted with the board to hire Glazier, but he said the decision was tinged with one aspect of regret - that duties as executive director would require Glazier to spend less time in the courtroom, where he had been so effective representing LSEM clients.
Glick notes that Glazier has become a perfect example of applying his two graduate degrees - the J.D. and M.S.W. - in the field. "The dual degree program at Washington University that awarded these degrees could not possibly have a higher aspiration than to train the Executive Director/General Counsel of a preeminent national Legal Services program like LSEM," said Glick.
"Since my wife, Brenda Guynes Glick, has a M.S.W., and I have a J.D., I often joke that it takes both she and me to equal Dan's abilities," Glick said.
Occupation: Executive Director and General Counsel for Legal Services of Eastern Missouri
Family: Married to Nancy Snow; two children, Ethan and Rianna
Home: University City
Fun Fact: In 2007, Glazier served as “chaperone/roadie” for the St. Louis Arches (his daughter was one of the performers) as they toured Israel with the Galilee Circus.