The day I came to interview for the education reporter position at the Nevada Appeal, then-Editor Barry Smith sat me down and talked about what I would be expected to cover.
When it came to Carson High School, one of the main focuses of the beat, he sighed. He explained that the principal of the school was protective (I may be using a nicer word than Barry used), and it was difficult to get access. To avoid any negative press, he tended to shut us out, Barry explained.
As Barry talked, he flipped through papers and landed on one with the principal’s photo on the front page.
“Hey, that’s my principal!” I exclaimed.
Glen Adair, my principal when I was a student at Elko High School, had moved on to become the principal of the high school where I ended up getting my first newspaper job.
True to form, my first few phone calls to Glen’s office went unreturned. Then I tried a new tactic.
“Tell him he was my principal at Elko High School,” I told his secretary.
That changed everything. I was no longer an adversary. I was a student. His student.
When I called former superintendent Mary Pierczynski this week, she had a lot of nice things to say about Glen. She wasn’t sure she should say it on the record, she said, but “Glen was a competitive guy who always wanted to win.”
But that really was his essence.
“If they were his kids, he wanted them to be on top,” she said.
And I was one of “his kids.”
He opened the doors to the school and to his office. That’s not to say it was always easy. He still hated when the “school’s battles were fought out in the pages of the Nevada Appeal,” as he told me often. But he always gave me access. My success was important to him.
When I’d pass by, he’d shout, “Hey, Vance, you still owe me a term paper.” He often preceded compliments with, “Now, Teri, I’m not just blowing smoke up your skirt ...” I’m still not sure what that means, but I do know he was sincere.
I interviewed him after he was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2001. He was humble and candid in that interview.
“I’m in the same fight as are several of our teachers who we have here and possibly hundreds in this town,” he told me. “I don’t see my case any different than the others who are worried about cancer and their own mortality. I’m right there. I just happen to be the principal of the high school.”
We talked about our mutual love for education, how we both felt at home inside a classroom. School, he said, was an escape for him from alcoholic and abusive parents.
He wanted to make his school a refuge, too.
I wrote a story about a freshman who was battling drug addiction and had fallen to prostitution to finance her habit. Because of the sensitivity of the subject matter, I withheld the girl’s name.
Glen asked me to let him know who she was. He wanted to personally reach out to her. Her success mattered to him, too.
When I heard he had died, I was instantly sad. But also grateful. I thought what a legacy he’d left in Nevada to the thousands of students and teachers he’d worked with over the years.
I was lucky enough to learn from him twice. In high school, he was my disciplinarian and principal. Later, he became my mentor and friend. Always, he was an educator. And, Glen, I’m not just blowing smoke up your skirt.