Joseph Glus

Navy veteran was the first Russian-language teacher in Baltimore County and energized students with music.

October 07, 2008|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Joseph Glus, a World War II Navy veteran who later became the first Russian language teacher in Baltimore County public schools, died Wednesday of cancer at Keswick Multi-Care Center. The longtime Charles Village resident was 84.

Mr. Glus, the son of immigrants from the Carpathian Mountains, was born and raised in McKeesport, Pa., in a bilingual household.

He was a 1942 graduate of McKeesport High School and enlisted in the Navy in 1944. He served as a signalman aboard naval vessels in the Pacific.

"He participated in the invasion of Iwo Jima and saw from his ship the Marines raising the flag on Mount Suribachi," said Dr. Joseph Mettler, his companion of 54 years. "He also visited Tokyo after the war had ended and saw the destruction there."

After being discharged from the Navy in 1947, Mr. Glus earned a bachelor's degree in industrial arts and education in 1951 from what is now California University of Pennsylvania in California, Pa.

While teaching carpentry and printing at the Kentucky School for the Blind in Louisville, Ky., he earned a master's degree in education from the University of Kentucky in 1953.

In 1954, he moved to Baltimore when he took a job at Towson High School teaching graphic arts and printing.

After the launch of the Sputnik 1 satellite by the Russians in 1957 brought heightened interest in the Soviet Union, friends urged him to make use of his Slavic language background and become a teacher of Russian.

Mr. Glus enrolled in evening and summer classes in Russian at the Johns Hopkins University, and was hired as the first Russian-language teacher in Baltimore County's public schools in 1959.

After the school system decided to increase students' exposure to Russian, Mr. Glus became a "circuit-rider teacher," Dr. Mettler said, traveling among several schools each year.

He conducted Russian classes at Ridgely Middle School and Towson, Dulaney and Parkville high schools, in addition to participating in teacher exchange programs in the Soviet Union and at Cornell, Indiana and Northwestern universities.

Mr. Glus designed a curriculum that incorporated the use of folk music as a language teaching tool.

"He was a master of his subject and of techniques for conveying it," Dr. Mettler said. "He was also a man of remarkable kindness, patience, encouragement and good humor."

Muriel L. Wright, who was a student of Mr. Glus' at Towson High School from 1962 to 1964, credited him with "making my life a little more interesting than it might otherwise have been," and influencing her to earn bachelor's and master's degrees in Russian from the University of Texas.

"He was just a wonderful, cheerful and mild-mannered man," said Ms. Wright, who lives in Austin, Texas, and is now retired from the Texas General Land Office, where she had been a writer and editor.

"When I signed up for Russian as a freshman at the University of Texas, I was given a proficiency test," she said. "The faculty was surprised that I had learned so much Russian in high school. 'You must have had a very good teacher,' they said.

"I looked forward to his classes. They were an island of refuge for me during my high school years," she said. "He was beautifully organized and worked hard to get the best out of everybody."

Mr. Glus retired in 1982.

He was an avid reader and book collector and purchased many of his books from sales held at the central Enoch Pratt Free Library on Cathedral Street.

Mr. Glus was a former member of the Unitarian Church.

Services are private.

In addition to Dr. Mettler, he is survived by several nieces and nephews.

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