This year, Rural Action awarded its Lifetime Achievement Award posthumously for only the second time in recognition of the work of a truly brilliant, passionate leader who continues to inspire many of us daily – John Glazer. (The first posthumous winner was Mary Stoertz, in 2007).

John’s legacy will live on in our region and in our hearts. We’re grateful for all we learned from John, whose impact was clear in the flurry of email responses to Chief Program Officer Brian Vadakin’s note informing our staff of John’s death last November.

Below are excerpts from a few of these responses, which demonstrate why he earned this Sustainability Award.

“John was instrumental in so much of our work, especially Zero Waste and Social Enterprise. He was one of the first partners that I met at RA, leading a ‘getting to zero waste with business’ workshop on my first day. He left an indelible mark on our community in Athens, from Brew Week to Social Enterprise. As his partner, Faith Knutsen, said on Facebook — his spirit will be “goading us on from afar” to keep the good work going. With many of us working tomorrow on the Fall Consignment Auction, supporting local producers, and the Hocking County Collection Day, keeping waste out of the landfill, I believe we are doing just that.”

— Brian Vadakin, Chief Program Officer

“John became a fun and respected friend and colleague for me in a very short amount of time. He was just that kind of person – hard to not be attracted to his wit and wisdom, and he had such a genuine interest in what we were all doing. We all have been influenced by him either by his mentorship or the projects that he was central to growing. He helped us to remember that we are all passing the baton to one another in this race.”

— Dan Vorisek, Resilient Communities Director

“John’s shoes will be hard to fill and none of us should try. Instead, let’s carry forward the wisdom he gave us to try to make this world better than we found it. That was and is his legacy. Those who are remembered, live. I will always remember his kindness, his guidance, and his belief that the world will be better because we will strive to be better.”

— Paul Patton, Social Enterprise Director

“John was a gem and brought a solid critique of capitalism to the work he did for many of us. He helped Brandon Jaeger and me with the Shagbark vision and I know he was behind the surprise award I received from Tech Growth.

“But that’s not all, or even a fraction of memories. Top among them is his love of dancing. I always met John and Faith Knutsen on the dance floor when the Wild Honeybees played.”

— Michelle Ajamian, Network Development Manager, Appalachian Staple Foods Collaborative

“John was a really great colleague and community member. He was always great to be around. We’re all better off having had the privilege of his engagement with our work and play.”

— Ed Newman, Zero Waste Director

“John was a mentor and friend that I could count on, in good times and bad, through a lot of twists and turns in my career. He really did have a knack for adding a dose of humor to every scary, stressful and uncertain situation, which made it possible to believe that there was a solution to every problem, if you just don’t take yourself too seriously. Many of us were mentored in the School of John – and we’re forever changed because of it. His absence will be felt by many, but I think he did a damn good job of leaving an indelible mark on the world while he still had the chance.

“And, even though I hate craft beer, I will totally drink one in his honor tonight.”

— Sarah Conley-Ballew, Sustainable Energy Solutions Director

(This is the final installment in a series of stories highlighting the winners of Rural Action’s 2021 Sustainability Awards. Learn how your neighbors are making our little corner of Appalachia an even better place.)

Meet the Award Recipients