(Photo by John Gleeson’ 65) One of the many fruits of Coach Gleeson’s new photographic passions: “Kevin Newbert drives by Zach Treadway”
by: Sumanth Maddirala ‘18
“George School was a wonderful place to work and raise my children. I left with many fond memories. I knew, however, that sooner or later I would get restless and need a new avenue of pursuit. I have found just that.”
During the heart of spring 2009, among the blooming flowers and towering trees surrounding the George School fields, two men walked into the batting cage of the baseball field: an avid athlete and his dedicated coach. The young man stood at the plate, ready to swing at the ball with all the power he had. The coach stood at the other end of the cage and pitched a baseball to his student, who was eager to show his coach the fruits of his efforts. The batter swung at the baseball, which soared through the air and ricocheted off the sturdy walls of the batting cage. However, within moments the ball crashed into the side of the coach’s head, causing his body to collapse onto the hard-packed dirt below. That coach was a man who had dedicated his life to his students and athletes and went by the name of “Gleese.”
Before long, “Gleese” was saved by a passing student skilled in the art of CPR, who happened to be Tyler Campellone, the son of the head grounds man Vince Campellone. With Juana Moody’s assistance, the students were able to get “Gleese” to St. Mary’s hospital, where he discovered his heart was “a ticking time bomb” with five major arteries nearly sealed. Within hours “Gleese” went through bypass surgery and within months he came back to George School. While this may have been a chance for coach “Gleese” to end his career with “a bang,” he chose to keep going and continue his teaching for as long as he could.
Forty Seven years was the number of years that George School was blessed to have the loyal alumnus, athlete, coach, and literary scholar John Gleeson ’65, as a member of its faculty. Between being the head of the English department, serving as the head coach of Varsity Football for thirty years, raising his two children, and nearly dying from a baseball crashing into his head, Gleeson has captured many memories of George School for years to come. However, Gleeson’s eyes, which have watched over the George School community and peer into the heart of its community, have decided to switch focus and look through a different lens.
That summer, John Gleeson decided that it was time to relinquish his title as “the living legend” of George School and pursue other interests. When the leaves of the George School tree turned to red and yellow this fall, Gleeson himself decided to turn a new leaf and pick up the camera. As of now, Gleeson has returned to the sports field but instead of coaching, he is capturing the action and enthusiasm of the game with his camera as full time sports photographer for Suburban One Sports, a website that covers the ins and outs of Bucks County sporting events. In addition, Gleeson also continues to write a column for The Advance of Bucks County, which allows him to continue his passion for writing outside the classroom.
Gleeson had been longing to invest time in photography, a dream he had held for thirty years. Reflecting on his new life Gleeson says, “[I]t is nice not to have classes at eight in the morning and a seemingly endless string of evening meetings.” While Gleeson is not as stretched as he was at George School and is much more independent, Gleeson is still hard at work behind the camera, stating that he is “experimenting with [his] ritzy Nikon camera and discover[ing] its full potential.” Gleeson had been longing to invest time in photography, a dream he had held for thirty years. “With his additional leisure time Gleeson says he has been able to enjoy literature that he had been longing to read, saying, “I just finished the 800-page novel Redemption by Leon Uris, a great book capturing a good deal of Irish history but far too weighty and lengthy to fit into a high school course.”
In the end, having been a member of the George School community for fifty-one years, Gleeson still holds the school in his heart and soul. Gleeson and other retirees have often, “mix[ed] reminiscences about George School with the life [they] are living outside of George School,” reflecting on what has changed in their lives. Gleeson misses his students and their sense of companionship the most saying, “I rarely talk to my subjects but just try to capture them as they perform. George School is a complex place but there is a warmth and sincerity about all the people who make up the school that is hard to find elsewhere.”
With each passing year more of George School’s most dedicated faculty and staff will retire, leaving a hole to fill in the community. However, with each passing year the community is blessed with the presence of new faculty who will go on to succeed their predecessors and ensure that the community will continue to “mind the light” the way they always have. Most importantly, though, the teachers who have dedicated their lives to George School impart a final gift to the community upon their departure: a reason for their students to succeed and become good citizens of the world. Ultimately, though Gleeson himself no longer walks across the George School campus, his legacy lives on through the students he inspired and the athletes he encouraged.