The World of Elderhostel According to Glenn Schwartz
Of all the things a person leaves behind upon their passing, there are few items that say as much about the lives they led as an Elderhostel passport — a small booklet in which participants track the Elderhostel programs they attend throughout the years.
Glenn Schwartz, a dear friend of Elderhostel, recently passed away and to look through his Elderhostel passport is to ponder adventures from as nearby as the Boundary Waters in his home state of Minnesota to as far away as Antarctica — 96 Elderhostel programs all told.
But it's not just his passport that tells the story of Glenn Schwartz and Elderhostel — it's the numbers. "My father was an engineer," said Glenn's son Paul, "so he was particular about keeping track of all of his Elderhostel programs. He used to rate them himself using his own numerical system. Quality of the instructor. Location. Course content. Food. There were seven categories in all and he'd rate each one on a scale from one to ten."
In 1992 Glenn attended an Elderhostel program at Ventura College in California and scored it a 63 out of 70. A program on Mackinac Island in Michigan in 2000 scored a 64 out of 70. The Aigas Field Center in Scotland in 1993 scored a 69. Only one program earned tens across the board: Costa Rica Birding in 1998 — a perfect 70.
Born in 1927 in Minnesota, the youngest of ten children born to immigrants from the former Czechoslovakia, Glenn Schwartz was raised on a working farm. He served in the U.S. Navy during the Second World War as a shipboard radar and sonar operator and was part of many classified assignments.
After the war he earned a bachelor’s in electrical engineering and masters in business from the University of Minnesota and began what would be a long and successful career in the defense contractor business, including positions at General Mills, Rand Corporation and Sperry Univac. In 1956, Glenn married Beverly Mae. They settled in Roseville, Minnesota, where they raised their son Paul.
"When my mom passed away in 1987, I remember my dad was quite lonely," Paul recalled. "That's when he took his first Elderhostel program. The socializing was really great for him, and he got inspired to go on adventures all over the world."
One of those adventures earned Glenn a spot on the cover of an Elderhostel catalog. If you received the International spring catalog from 1990, then you likely saw a photo of Glenn feeding eucalyptus leaves to a koala perched on a branch. Another photograph of Glenn was included in the 2001 Elderhostel calendar. On the December page, you can see Glenn with other participants standing on a beach behind several giant sea lions.
Glenn met Barbara Beard on an Elderhostel program and they went on to participate in many programs together. They were particularly fond of birding programs, and Glenn enjoyed adding new varieties to his birding life list, accumulating a total of 3,000 birds.
"My father really believed in Elderhostel," Paul said. "Each experience enriched his life. The more rugged, the better. He met many good people and was always surprised by the diversity of the folks attending ... how they came from all parts of the country to learn together. Thanks for being there."
Because Elderhostel was there for him, Glenn named Elderhostel as a beneficiary of his will. His bequest will help ensure that the kinds of programs he loved will be available for his son and for others in the coming generations who want to learn, experience adventure and see the world one bird at a time. To Glenn we say: "Thanks for being there for us."