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Debra Kirchhof-Glazier

Professor of Biology

Debra Kirchhof-Glazier

A single conversation with Deb Kirchhof-Glazier is an education in itself. In the course of an interview, she can address topics from pottery to politics -- all while communicating her overwhelming love for family and her fierce commitment to helping Juniata remain a place where diversity is celebrated.

Of course, Juniata could expect no less of a woman so committed to diversity that she invited two mice to be part of her wedding to husband Doug Glazier.

"We met in the woods, trapping mice for research in a physiology class at Cornell University," Kirchhof-Glazier says. "A year later we were married -- with two of our mice in a place of honor at the altar. After the wedding, we took the mice out into the woods where we met and let them go."

Kirchhof-Glazier's unique outlook extends to her professional life, where she and her husband share a single academic appointment. "I don't like research and I love to teach," she says. "Doug loves to do research and we both were determined to have time for family." Kirchhof-Glazier joined the Juniata faculty in 1981 after earning a doctoral degree in physiology at Cornell in 1979. She earned a bachelor's degree in biology from Lebanon Valley College in 1973.

The couple started their family in 1981, with the birth of daughter Brynda, 20, now a sophomore at the University of Montana. In 1985, their son Darron was born. Darron was born severely disabled. "Darron has idiopathic central nervous system dysfunction, which means they don't really know what the cause is," she explains.

After caring for Darron at home for two years, the Glaziers enrolled him in Allegheny Valley School in Hummelstown, where he resides today. Kirchhof-Glazier, always on the lookout for activities that Darron can take part in, recently designed a wheelchair-accessible garden at home that emphasizes textures and aroma, rather than visual beauty.

One of the most important Juniata events Darron was involved in was Disability Recognition Week in April 1999. Kirchhof-Glazier coordinated the event and planned some of the activities.

"She's an amazing, passionate person who is willing to put herself out there," says Celia Cook-Huffman, associate professor of conflict resolution, who worked with Kirchhof-Glazier to start a peer mediation program at Huntingdon Area High School. "For the students and for her family she is totally accessible."

Juniata student organizations count on her as well, particularly the Bah’a'i’ Club, a group she started in 1993. Kirchhof-Glazier converted to Bah’a'i’ after taking two years to research the teachings of the religion. "I wanted to make sure I wasn't joining a cult," she says with a laugh.

The club schedules diversity excursions, or "diversions," such as attending plays or multicultural music productions. She was asked to be a part of the 2000 Juniata Diversity Task Force and is a member of the Huntingdon County NAACP.

"Deb has an incredible empathy for other people and her threshold for others' suffering is very low," says Doug Glazier. "When she sees someone in trouble she wants to help."

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