Sunday, August 25, 1996
A gold star for this class record holder

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Here's a record you probably can't beat unless you're 5 years old and start tomorrow.

Dr. Henry Glover has never missed a day of school. Ever. Not once in 54 years as a student and a teacher.

So, Hank, you big brown nose, I said (or respectful words to that effect), tell the truth now. Never? You never, for instance, heard that Michael Jackson was going to make an important announcement on Oprah and decided that you might have a fever?

You never thought your throat felt a little scratchy on Opening Day? You never suspected that you might feel queasy just in time for a trip to Keeneland?

''Well, I was just never sick,'' he says firmly. ''So, I got up and went to school.''

His perfect record began at Breckenridge University School in Morehead, Ky., where he attended kindergarten through 12th grade. Then he earned his bachelor's and master's degrees at Morehead State University. He did not cut a single class. Not one. He got his Ph.D. in art at Illinois State University.

When he wasn't going to school, he was teaching school. (Except for four years in the Army, where attendance is compulsory.) He taught at Morehead, Illinois State College in Buffalo, Woodward High School in Bond Hill, the University of Kentucky in Lexington and for the last 17 years at the School for Creative and Performing Arts.

So that's 54 years at some place of learning or another. Figuring that the academic year averages about 185 days per, that adds up to 9,990 days without a miss.

It sounds a little compulsive to me, although I noticed that he was nearly two minutes late for our lunch together and he didn't polish his silverware with his napkin or count the number of rolls I ate.

A winning streak

His good health, he says, is genetic and he just works out a ''little bit'' and ''kind of'' watches what he eats. Ha. He's 6-foot-something and looks like he could easily run up the steps if the elevators ever conk out in Highland Towers, the Mount Adams high-rise where he lives.

He is, in fact, charming and modest, admitting his record has been ''hard to maintain here toward the end.'' Sometimes there were other things he wanted to do, but ''I realized I had a streak going.''

And there was this one other thing. ''I just flat-out love to teach.'' It's kind of icing on the cake that he gets to teach something as important as art, he says.

Excuse me, I said, art?

''It's the most important subject in the curriculum,'' he says. ''If we can teach kids to exercise that part of their brain, they can do anything.'' His doctoral dissertation was on visualization - the image-forming power of the brain.

''My mission is to train kids to use that power. Meanwhile, they're learning to paint and draw.'' He says 87 percent of what we know about our world is based on vision. Taste, touch, hearing and smell split up the other 13 percent.

''So you can see,'' he says, ''how important it is to learn to really use that sense. This will help a student become a better human being, not just a better artist.''

The more truth you see, the harder it is to lie. Or something like that. As I listen to him talk, it occurs to me, as it so often does, that we are lucky that people like Hank Glover want to teach our kids.

Cal Ripken Jr. made national news when he played a record-breaking 2,216 consecutive games. He got a standing ovation, a bonus and, I'm sure, some lovely material tokens of esteem.

Hank Glover - Dr. Glover - says his reward for no sick days is that he gets to be healthy. Unused sick days will tack time or money onto his retirement, he thinks. He hasn't done the arithmetic yet.

But there is no prize for this extraordinary record. Unless you count self-respect. Unless you count not missing a single chance to help young people become better human beings.

Laura Pulfer's column appears in The Enquirer Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax at 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM) and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.