Today, August 20, Olivia Glazner is like any other airport passenger boarding an international flight. She’s got a carry-on bag, her passport and she’s settling in for a long flight, eager to reach her eventual destination. The University of San Diego junior’s final landing spot, Vienna, Austria, is where she’ll participate in a USD undergraduate fall semester study abroad program. It figures to be life-enriching and memorable, a trip she’ll be talking about for years to come.
The chance to travel, though, is something Glazner considers herself quite fortunate to do given what she’s leaving behind.
Eleven days prior, Glazner and her family’s foundation — their large Oklahoma City home — was gutted by a late-night fire. The blaze that started after a bolt of lightning struck, ruptured a gas line and sparked flames that quickly spread across the second-story roof and eventually collapsed. Thankfully, all family members inside vacated the house and were unharmed. A fire crew on scene, however, couldn’t contain the blaze fast enough to save the house.
“The house did not completely burn to the ground, but it is totally gutted,” Glazner said. “The roof caved in over a great portion of it and smoke and water damaged everything almost entirely. It’s been chaotic. As I was preparing for my study abroad trip, this last week was filled with trips to the mall to replace everything I’ve ever owned. My room collapsed and everything was unsalvageable. It’s been a whirlwind and my family is just trying to keep it together.”
Olivia was 12 when the family had moved into the home, which had been painstakingly designed and maintained by her mother. Olivia said her family is determined to rebuild a home on this cherished space.
Cherished could describe how a close group of Glazner’s USD community of supporters treated her in the wake of such a tough life event. The morning after it happened, Glazner received a text from Crystal Dujowich, a current PhD student, graduate assistant and professor in USD’s School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES) Department of Leadership Studies. The message she sent to Glazner said, simply, “How are you, really?”
A few days later, a heartfelt care package arrived at the hotel where Glazer and her family stayed while seeking stable housing. Dujowich organized the package, filled with an array of gifts, letters, photos and inspiration. There were ample words of support and encouragement from SOLES Professor Cheryl Getz, SOLES PhD student and Leadership Minor Graduate Assistant Tara Edberg, recent SOLES graduate and Olivia’s best friend Taylor Harrell and current undergraduate classmates Kyle Miller, Adriana Kaplan, Michelle Ellis and Liz Kowalski. The package also offered much-needed levity.
“I can’t describe how much it meant to me to have friends from all across the country working together to make something so special for me, for no other reason than to try and bring a smile to my face,” said Glazner, an Ethnic Studies major and a SOLES’ undergraduate leadership minor. ‘They all know me really well and knew that bringing some humor into my chaos is exactly what I love and need. Taylor included an ‘Awkward Family Photos’ album with some wonderfully awkward photos of herself and our friends. Crystal signed her message in a journal she gave me for the [Vienna] trip, ‘to a life of Love, Laughter and Leadership,’ and that’s what it’s really all about.”
Several touching love letters, a small board with Olivia’s name on it and adjectives to describe her as well as “a beautiful rose quartz crystal on a necklace that is an energy stone for love and healing,” she noted, were in the care package. Candy was included, too, but Glazner gave it to her younger brothers, Luke and Jeffrey, ages 11 and 8, who were also home at the time of the fire.
“It was really amazing how each one of the letters specifically mentioned thoughts and prayers for my parents and brothers, even though most of them have never met any of my family,” she recalled.
Oklahoma, especially the town of Moore, about 30 minutes from where the Glazners resided, has suffered greatly. Deadly tornadoes in May of this year ravaged much of the area, killing dozens and injuring many more. Many have rallied to support their neighbors. When the fire occurred, Glazner made it a point to let people know what happened.
“My mom asked me to post something on Facebook to let everyone know what happened before they saw it on the news, etc. Within minutes, and continuing for several days, my phone and email inbox was flooded with kind and genuine messages of prayer and positivity coming our way. With the Moore tornadoes so recently affecting the Oklahoma City area, everyone around was beyond willing and eager to step up and help out.”
The support by members within the SOLES community, which is 1,300-plus miles from Oklahoma City, felt as close to Glazner as a next-door neighbor.
“The genuine selflessness in SOLES is unbelievable, and even more than that, the community. If you look at who contributed to this gesture, from Dr. Getz, the dean, to Tara and Crystal, our grad assistant professors, to Taylor, Michelle, Kyle, Liz and Adriana, my peers and classmates, you realize the true essence of family that’s represented at SOLES. Each of them went out of their way to send me a kind and genuine message of love with no expectation of receiving anything in return. That’s what leadership is about.”
— Ryan T. Blystone
Photo courtesy of Olivia Glazner