Teacher, counselor did everything ‘from the heart’

There may be no higher tribute than this one, among hundreds posted on longtime Dekalb County Schools counselor Mike Gluck’s Facebook page upon the news of his passing:

“I dedicate this to the best man in the world. He was like a father to everyone in our school.”

During a nearly 25-year career at Cross Keys, Walker and then Avondale high schools (his longest stint) followed by post-retirement work as a Dunwoody High substitute, Gluck touched thousands of lives, becoming widely known for his ability to put students at ease, his positive attitude and sense of humor, plus his penchant for giving spot-on college, career and personal guidance, said wife, Diane Gluck, a DeKalb County Schools French teacher.

Mike Larry Gluck of Dunwoody died May 5 at Emory Midtown Hospital from heart and kidney failure. He was 63.

Both family and longtime friends like Mitch Blaylock said an early sense of idealism coupled with a love of people led Gluck into education and counseling.

“Everything he did was from the heart,” said Blaylock. “He had the biggest heart of anybody I ever met.”

Blaylock, a mechanical engineer from Dunwoody, says that ‘people person’ bent was what led Gluck to transform his backyard into what friends and family jokingly called ‘Club Gluck,’ complete with a pool, a decked-out mock gas station, a bank of seats from the old Atlanta-Fulton County stadium and quirky yard ornaments. It became a treasured gathering spot for family and friends, he said, and one place where ‘goofy stuff’ from Gluck’s frequent garage sale and flea market forays wound up.

Born and raised in Miami, Gluck graduated from Florida State and Florida A and M universities with degrees in social studies, education and counseling. After three years of teaching in Tallahassee, he moved to Atlanta.

At the age of 20, said Diane Gluck, he was diagnosed with Hodgkins Disease. He beat the cancer with the help of radiation, but the treatment “fried his heart,” she said. A heart attack at age 43 was a precursor to increasing health problems and surgeries the last 20 years of his life, his loved ones said, but they said it never dented his giving spirit.

“The kids he touched are now making a difference in other people’s lives,” she said. “There was one young man who came to the hospital his last night and literally thanked him for saving his life.

“He was a friend of the family and when he was in college he would call Mike weekly, sometimes more often with panic attacks and other problems and Mike would stay on the phone with him, sometimes for more than an hour.”

If a youngster didn’t have money for lunch and was hungry, Gluck would pay for it. If a student was stuck without a way to get to school, he’d quietly arrange a ride. One time, says retired fellow former Avondale counselor Gloria Webb, Gluck learned that a persistently tardy student was having to get his brothers and sisters off to school first and wash their clothes by hand.

“Nobody ever knew this but me,” she said, “but Mike found a washer and dryer for that family.”

In addition to his wife, Gluck is survived by his mother Annabelle Noonan; sons Alan and Max, brother Dennis and a host of aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews.

A celebration of his life is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, May 17 at the Dekalb School of the Arts, 1192 Clarendon Avenue, Avondale Estates.