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'One heck of a journey': Steve Glasser leads Trinity with heart and faith

Steve Glasser, president of Dickinson Catholic Schools, is pictured in his office on Thursday, Dec. 28. (Sydney Mook / The Dickinson Press)

Life has been a journey for Steve Glasser. From teaching and coaching in Beach to leading a school through some of the hardest times in its history, it could be easy to be downtrodden about life at times, but Glasser doesn't view life that way.

Glasser, president of Dickinson Catholic Schools, was born and raised in Mott and graduated from Mott Lincoln High School in 1976. He went on to the University of Mary as a freshmen but transferred to Dickinson State University graduating in 1981 with a bachelor's degree in elementary education.

Glasser spent the first five years of his professional career teaching and coaching girls and boys basketball in Beach before moving to Dickinson when he took a job at Trinity High School in the fall of 1986.

Glasser said coming to Trinity, which was a Class A school at the time, was a "good" opportunity as a coach and to be a teacher.

"Back then I had pretty much fallen away from the Catholic church," he said. "I owe Trinity everything. When I got here and saw the incredible things that were happening, it got me back to my faith and hopefully made me a much better person and a better father."

He taught junior high studies and coached boys and girls basketball for 15 years before transitioning out of the classroom in 2001 for the development director position at the school.

In 2006, Glasser left Trinity to become the director of enrollment at DSU, which he said was a very difficult decision. He served in that capacity until 2009 when he became the executive director of DSU's Strom Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. In 2012, he took a position at American Bank Center in Dickinson.

"It was really good for me to embark in something I wasn't familiar with," he said. "... It proved that no matter how old you are you can still learn and you should continue to learn all your life."

By late 2013, though, Trinity was looking for someone to take over a new role of president-principal.

Glasser applied.

"My heart never really left Trinity after all those years and then they were really struggling finding a superintendent and they were looking at a new model of president-principal," he said. "... I applied and was interviewed and accepted the job."

The fire

Glasser became the first president of the Dickinson Catholic Schools on Feb. 21, 2014, just 10 days before a fire destroyed part of the school on March 3, 2014.

"It was like, 'Welcome back.' The school was going through a difficult time back then just because there was so many changes, so when I took over my priorities were communication and culture but then it turned into survival mode," Glasser said. "I'll never forget the early morning of March 3."

The entire community rallied around the school, Glasser said. Dickinson Public Schools Superintendent Doug Sullivan and others from the district met with Trinity administrators to develop a plan. Trinity kids were placed around the community with their teachers. DSU offered up rooms for music classes. The school's administration was stationed in the basement of TMI Systems Corporation. Fundraisers were started by community members.

"I think God put me here for a reason ... we had to try and rally people and keep people calm," he said.

John Odermann, former director of advancement at the school and current head football coach, said Glasser was the "leader we needed" after the fire.

"He was willing to admit, 'Hey, I've never done something like this before' and he did it in a way where everyone was able to learn from that experience and to work together to get to a positive end," Odermann said.

Odermann said while it was a serious time of trying to piece together a new school, Glasser lead with a coach's mentality.

"At that point and time we need a guy that the community saw as a Titan," Odermann said. "... I think it was the approach of a coach and that approach of not getting down in the dumps when something bad happens, and just rolling with the punches is something he brought to that situation. Steve did a good job of being adjustable and kind of adjusting the game plan as the game unfolded."

By August 2014 students were able to walk the halls of Trinity again, even as construction continued around them. The fire taught students lifelong lessons, Glasser said.

"I think it's amazing that we went from that day to this (new school) in three years," Glasser said. "I think it's a testament to the resiliency of our teachers, staff and kids. For three years every year was different. We were running a school in a construction zone but our kids and our teachers knew it is what it is. ... I think it was a great lesson for our kids that life doesn't always go like you plan."

Nearly three years after the fire, the school opened its new addition in January 2017, a project that cost around $26.5 million. The project was mostly funded by a capital campaign which has raised more than $20 million as of December 2017, making it the largest capital campaign in the history of Dickinson, according to Glasser.

"It was a heck of a journey," Glasser said. "The first day we moved in here I just closed my door and cried, it was like 'Wow, we did it.' I think the power of prayer and just having so many wonderful people in this community is just amazing."

'Educating the whole student'

Glasser said a Catholic school system in the city offers parents a choice of where to send their kids to school, whether it's Trinity, Hope Christian Academy, Dickinson Public Schools, the Seventh-day Adventist school or the Montessori school.

"We have a very simple mission statement but it really defines us, 'Educating the whole student: mind, body and soul,'" Glasser said. "In today's society it's tough growing up and we help with the soul part of it. Everyday we talk about God. We pray before every class, we pray in the morning as a school, we pray before lunch. ... I just think people need God in their lives."

As 2018 begins, Glasser said the school is planning to continue to work on its culture. The school also wants to grow enrollment.

The school has hired a former kindergarten teacher to work part-time as a preschool teacher and also help create events to connect with young families and recruit new students while retaining the ones they already have. The school has put together movie nights and recently held a Christmas cookie decorating night where more than 200 people showed up.

"We're really trying to connect with families because we want them to feel a part of something," Glasser said. "When you feel a part of something it's harder to leave. So we're hoping to retain some of these preschool students into our kindergarten so we can grow. ... We just want to be the best school we can be."

Glasser said he wants "Trinity to be a place where people want to work here and people want to send their children here because of how you feel."

"If you're happy you're gonna perform better as a faculty and staff, as a student you're going to better in school," he said. "We're really working on our culture and how we treat people."

Glasser has talked with every class and many groups of students about 'Awakening greatness' which is one of the school's visions. Glasser would meet with groups of students from fifth grade through seniors to talk about what the students liked and disliked about the school and how they could improve.

"We're all great in our own way, God created us to be great, but we're all different," Glasser said. "We all have different interests, we all have different talents, but why can't we all be a great person? What's so hard about being kind and being respectful?"

Glasser said he always told his students and student-athletes that while there are things in life that you cannot control, you can always control your attitude and your effort.

"If you have a good attitude and strong work ethic you're going to do well in life," he said. "Life isn't complicated, we make it complicated."

A blessed life

When Glasser isn't working he enjoys spending time with his three children: Tyler, Chad and Mackenzie and his seven grandchildren. He also got remarried about a year and half ago.

Odermann said Glasser is a good guy to work around and with.

"He does a good job of keeping things light but can get serious when things need to be serious," Odermann said.

Glasser said he's a "pretty simple guy" who likes to golf and enjoys spending time at Wagner Bay.

"Life has been very good," he said. "I feel very blessed."

Sydney Mook

Sydney Mook started working as the multimedia editor for The Press in January 2016.  She graduated from the University of South Dakota with a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science in three and half years in December 2015. While at the USD, she worked for the campus newspaper, The Volante, as well as the television news show, Coyote News. She also interned at South Dakota Public Broadcasting and spent the summer before her senior year interning in Fort Knox for the ROTC Cadet Summer Training program. In her spare time, Sydney enjoys cheering on the New York Yankees and the Kentucky Wildcats, as well as playing golf. If you've got an idea for a video be sure to give her a call!

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