PATERSON, NJ - As an educator, coach, administrator, and, even more importantly, mentor, friend, and family man, Dr. Gerald Glisson was larger than life. On Friday, colleagues, admirers, and loved ones joined together to announce that the man who was “all in” when it came to supporting Paterson’s youth, would be forever memorialized through the renaming of the Bauerle Field House in his honor.
The visibly run down training space for the Eastside Ghosts is set to undergo a nearly $1 million renovation that will make it comparable to, if not better than, those in use by other high school athletic programs in the area. This, several speakers said, was the epitome of Glisson’s efforts, to make sure that Paterson students had every opportunity as all others.
Glisson, who most recently served as Eastside High School’s Principal of Operations, passed away unexpectedly in May from COVID-19. Just 46 years old, Glisson's passing drew tributes from every corner of Paterson, and beyond, including from Governor Phil Murphy.
Mayor Andre Sayegh led the ceremony announcing the permanent memorial for the “legendary leader” and was the first of several guests in attendance that would struggle to find new words of praise for the beloved Glisson. “He was always tough on me,” Sayegh admitted before sharing that even that came with “an ear to ear grin.”
“He was always advocating for the students,” Sayegh said.
“Dr. Glisson was a man of distinction who was passionate about imparting knowledge and wisdom to the next generation and beyond,” City Council Vice President Dr. Lillisa Mimms, who also spoke Friday, said just prior to the legislative body’s July vote making the renaming possible. His love for the youth, she added, was “undeniable.”
As is often the case at such ceremonies, an understandably somber mood often shifted to one of laughter and jubilation as speakers including Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly and Robert Littlejohn, Basileus of the Lamda Upsilon Chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity for whom Glisson so proudly wore the purple and gold, remembered their brother and friend as a man whose “hard work and dedication” was always directed towards the students he considered he cared so deeply about.
A native of Neptune, Glisson moved to Paterson where he lived with his wife, Michelle, and their two children. Once he arrived, Wimberly said, “he was all in.” Glisson was a “superior coach,” Wimberly said, a leader who could mold young players, including eventual Super Bowl champion Victor Cruz, into great ones.
It wasn’t just on the field where Glisson’s tremendous impact was felt, Superintendent of Schools Eileen Shafer said. Sharing that she still missed the phone calls from him during which he’d just check in to see how she was doing, Shafer reflected that even in his role as disciplinarian at Eastside the students “always knew he cared.”
“It didn’t matter what they looked like or what they dressed like,” Shafer said. When Glisson came in contact with any student, “there was always a lesson.”
Currently a commissioner on the Paterson Board of Education, Vincent Arrington was also a fraternity brother of Glisson whom he called a “friend to all of us.”
“He was a man of humility and perseverance,” Arrington said, adding that no matter the situation he was “always rolling up his sleeves and helping others, without acknowledgement.”
Listening intently throughout the ceremony was Michelle Glisson who told TAPinto Paterson the honor being bestowed on her late husband was fitting as “this is where his heart was.”
“He was an outstanding family man,” she said, clarifying that his passion was not just to see the young athletes under his watchful eye excel on the field but also in the classroom. The large banner that now hangs his honor, as well as the fieldhouse will, she hopes “remind them of what he was instilling.”
What Glisson achieved during his life “didn’t come easy,” Michelle said, including the achievement of earning a Doctorate in Education. “When Gerald set a goal he wasn’t going to stop until he achieved it,” a trait, she hopes, will remain instilled in others.
Wiping away tears Michelle shared her belief that Glisson was looking down “with the biggest smile on his face to see his dream coming to fruition.”
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