Glay Sperling R.I.P.

Written by  //  December 20, 2003  //  Absent Friends  //  No comments

From the Urban Dictionary: Glay Sperling definition
To exceed one’s expectations, e.g.
“Damn Gord, you really pulled a Glay Sperling on that guitar solo…”
We have no idea how this originated, but certainly applicable to Glay’s accomplishments at Expo 67.
Glay Sperling, S BA 68, died December 20 in Montreal. He was a longtime educator and former photojournalist, best known for his photos of world leaders at the Quebec Conference in 1943. Glay worked as a photographer at the Montreal Standard newspaper in the 1940s. In 1970, he founded the cinema department at Dawson College in Montreal, where he taught for 33 years. He is survived by his brother, Christian. Glay was 83. (Concordia In memoriam)

 

Photojournalist loved to teach his craft
‘Dignified, suave’.
Made his mark during Quebec City summit conference
Brenda Branswell, The Gazette
Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Glay Sperling, a long-time Montreal educator and former photojournalist who took pictures of world leaders at the historic Quebec Conference in 1943, is dead.
Sperling, 83, died Dec. 20 of a lung embolism. His funeral was held Monday at St. Ignatius of Loyola Church in Montreal.

The son of German immigrants, Sperling began his career in the 1940s at the Montreal Standard newspaper photographing celebrities who visited the city including Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.
His break in journalism came at a time “when Germans were not very popular in Canada,” his brother Christian said in an interview yesterday.
Max Ackerman, his friend and colleague at Dawson College, said Sperling’s most famous political photo came from the Second World War summit conference in Quebec City that brought together U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
“He has a picture of Roosevelt and Churchill shaking hands with (former Canadian prime minister) Mackenzie King looking on,” said Ackerman, who teaches in the cinema/communications department at Dawson.

Sperling also worked at Expo 67 as production head of special attractions at the fair.
Ackerman said Sperling was also “a meeter and greeter of the stars that came in. So he would chaperon Marlena Dietrich around or Ed Sullivan . . . . so he was a kind of man about the Canadian entertainment scene.”
One of Sperling’s close friends was actor Christopher Plummer, Ackerman said. They became friends at the Stratford Festival the first year it opened.
“And they stayed friends all these years,” he said.
Sperling landed in The Gazette’s news pages again in 1971 when his quick thinking may have helped save two policemen who were gunned down on Cedar Ave.
Sperling stumbled upon the scene as he drove along the street. He sprinted to the police car and radioed for help.

In 1970, he founded the cinema department at Dawson College where he taught for 33 years.
“He started the department when he was 50. So think of that. It is an amazing achievement,” said Simon Davies, the chairperson of the cinema / communications department.
Sperling’s major contribution was teaching photography, Davies said. He also set up a foundation years ago that awarded scholarships for Dawson students. “His passion was the teaching and the energy that comes from it. I think he liked to perform,” Davies said.
He kept teaching into his early 80s. Divorced with no children, Sperling defied his age – both in his appearance and energy level.
“He never looked like an 83-year-old,” said Davies. “He wasn’t an old geezer. He was very proud. He stood tall. He was well-dressed, extremely well-mannered.”
Ironically, his last teaching assignment this fall was called “media and youth.” But he took a leave in September because he felt unwell.
“He was all excited about doing it,” said Ackerman.
“He was dignified. He was debonair, suave – always an air of sophistication and worldliness and I would say a very kind person. He really liked to get students enthusiastic about photography. That’s why he stayed in it so long. He just couldn’t leave those enthusiastic faces.”

His work meant everything to him, said Christian Sperling. “He told me it isn’t even the money from teaching that I can well use. He said that it is the fact that he feels that he is still needed.”

Montreal is going to have an amateur hour lasting six months beginning April And the ringmaster in charge of booking everything
This was how and where we first knew Glay. Along with flair, he accomplished his huge task with Teutonic thoroughness and a delightful non-Teutonic sense of humor.
Expo’s charming amateur groups – Yves Jasmin
They came from all over, 725 groups in all! 420 of these came from all Canadian provinces; 281 groups from 24 American states, including Hawai; 24 came from European countries, and one from Korea. They were predominantly youthful – forty-eight percent came from secondary schools, ten percent came from elementary schools and nine percent from universities, while the remainder were representative of municipal and professional organizations, along with ethnic communities.
A charming, man about town, Glay Sperling, bearing the title of production head of special attractions was in charge of this organization. Glay’s background as a well-known photojournalist who had started his career photographing celebrities for the Montreal Standard was both unlikely and highly suitable to the gargantuan task. He had flair, an eye for detail, a sense of theatre and an understanding of the needs of performers – and audiences.
… I have no idea where the original idea came from or who worked with Glay to develop the program, but since we had built those bandshells, there had to be some preliminary planning. The General Report says only that “a judicious selection was made in order to present capable groups. A team of experts was brought together on a number of occasions in order to audition groups …” Not so easy in those days before videos and Youtube!

 

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