Through a plum-colored entry room, down a hallway and around a corner in a Glen Burnie office building, Lowell R. Glazer sits at a massive desk and exudes power -- quietly.
The real estate developer and builder doesn't much like to talk about himself. He's receiving the Jewish Humanitarian Award today from a Baltimore synagogue, and the honor makes him uncomfortable, he says.
"I don't like to think about all the things I've done," says Glazer. But he doesn't mean the bad things. He means the good things, like donating a library for the education of Jewish children with learning disabilities, and establishing a trust for charities.
In Glazer's mind, though, it isn't quite enough. "The trust isn't a lot of money now, but with the number of properties, I'm hoping to do something."
And as for the award, "I don't feel deserving," he says.
Glazer came "out of nowhere," he says, and he's ended up building shopping centers, apartment complexes and homes all over the state, building projects valued at more than $170 million.
Now age 59, he's served as vice president, secretary, on the board of directors and as chairman of the building committee for Chizuk Amuno, the synagogue he attends in Baltimore. He's a trustee at Baltimore Hebrew University andchairman of its house and building committees.
He's on the executive committee of Israel Bonds and on the board of directors of Associated Jewish Charities.
Glazer says he's grateful, though, he says,he's not quite comfortable with his success.
He didn't grow up with either wealth or status, he says. He remembers he was thrilled to earn $1.05 in Christmas tips on his newspaper route in Baltimore.
A born businessman, the 12-year-old used the money to buy a saw he could build shelves with. In high school, he divided his time between working at a meat market and playing basketball.
From the first, hewas good at figuring out ways to do things. At 14, he formed a company to make and sell five-piece wooden puzzles. In his later teens, when changing records while entertaining girlfriends became onerous, heand his best friend designed a device that would change records, so neither had to interrupt his date to put on a new 45.
He worked his way through the University of Maryland, studying business management, then served as a pilot for the Air Force for three years. "I was in heaven, making $135 a week" he remembers, chuckling. "It was the most money I'd ever seen."
In his first job out of the service, for a wholesale appliance distributor, he managed to trim hours off his assigned duties and received three raises in less than a year.
But he soon went into business for himself, buying a small plot of land and building 35 houses on it. Then he took the money and went into partnership with his brother-in-law, Leonard Attman. They're still building together, now as the Attman-Glazer Developer and Builder Group.
During the years, the partners weathered various business challenges, like having to charge more than $100 for a monthly mortgage in the1960s, and worrying that nobody would pay that much for a house in Sun Valley.
Now, with 2.8 million square feet of building projects behind him, Glazer has started to think about "giving back to society, while I can appreciate it and while I can appreciate that other people appreciate it," he says.
He worries a little about the reputation developers acquire as land-rapers, he says. "But all the houses we've sold for $20,000 are now worth about $300,000. So at least they were a good investment.
"I've built about 3,000 apartments and I don't get one complaining call a year," he says. "I've made mistakes, but I sleep at night."
In the last few years, he's started doing "things I wanted to do," Glazer says. He's helped P'TACH provide religious training for Jewish children with learning disabilities.
He'salso a founder of the Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem, which delivers about 50 percent of all babies born in the city. Their Neonatal Intensive Care Unit treats those born prematurely or with problems, regardless of race, religion or ability to pay. Called the "Hospital with a heart," Shaare Zedek treats children from countries officially at war with Israel, even if the child may grow up to fight against Israel, explains Glazer proudly. He's receiving his award tonight at a benefit concert for the hospital, at Beth Tfiloh Congregation in Baltimore.
When his synagogue decided to build a school complex, he took a year off to serve as building chairman, and he and his wife Harriet donated the library.
The project went from "brick and mortar and aggravation" to something meaningful when he walked in and saw the building in use, children running up and down the halls, Glazer says.