Gene B. Glick

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Gene B. Glick

1921 - 2013

Eugene Biccard Glick, one of Indiana's most successful real estate developers, died peacefully at his home surrounded by his loving family. He was 92.

Featured in Tom Brokaw's bestseller The Greatest Generation, Glick was a WWII combat veteran who went on to build one of the country's most successful housing firms during the greatest construction boom in U.S. history. In the latter decades of his life, he was known as much for his generous philanthropy as his business success.

Together with his wife, Marilyn, he funded the Glick Eye Institute at the Indiana University School of Medicine, the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, the Indiana Authors Award, and a wide array of charitable projects benefiting the arts, education, public health, and aid organizations throughout Central Indiana.

Born in Indianapolis on August 29, 1921, he was the older son of Reuben Glick and Faye Biccard Glick. Young Gene Glick spent his early childhood taking piano lessons, visiting Riverside Park, and playing baseball with his younger brother, Arthur, who died in 1937 as a result of spinal meningitis. The Arthur M. Glick Jewish Community Center was named by Gene to honor his brother.

Gene Glick showed early entrepreneurial instincts as an advertising salesman on the Daily Echo at Shortridge High School and later as the operator of a charter bus service at Indiana University, where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree from its School of Business.

After graduating from IU in December 1942, he completed basic training with the Army and served as a combat instructor until June 1944, when he was deployed to Italy. When he learned he would be moved to the relatively static Italian front, visions of miserable WWI trench conditions prompted him to request a transfer to France. He was transported to Épinal as part of the 179th Regiment of the 45th Infantry Division, fighting to secure France in the months following the D-Day invasion of Normandy. As a German speaker, Glick often served as a front-line interrogator for Army scouts.

One day of the war would serve as the touchstone of his life. He and his fellow GIs were under heavy shell fire, and he dove into an ice-covered slit trench. He had to lay face-down in freezing water for what seemed like hours as shells and shrapnel rained down. He later wrote in his autobiography, Born to Build, "I said to myself, how much worse can it be? If I survive, I'm not going to forget this day. Any time I think I've got it tough or things aren't going well, I'm going to say to myself, 'Glick, how does this compare to November 11, 1944?'"

The following spring, the division pressed into Germany and took Nuremburg and Munich. Glick and his comrades liberated Dachau concentration camp in April 1945. At that time, few soldiers knew what they would find at such camps—crematoria, execution pits, railroad cars full of bodies. Glick had a camera with him and documented what he saw. He would later donate his photographs to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Emory University. Glick received every European Theater ribbon awarded and was decorated with the Bronze Star and Combat Infantryman's Badge.

After the war he returned to Indianapolis and joined Peoples Bank, where he established its GI loan program, which would go on to issue more GI loans than all other Indianapolis banks combined. While working at the bank he saw a tremendous business opportunity: His fellow veterans were starting families, but there was a serious shortage in housing.

He found the perfect business partner in Marilyn Koffman, whom he began to date shortly after returning home from the war. During their courtship, Gene and Marilyn took their respective nest eggs and began investing in real estate together. During this time, he visited a home construction site and walked away realizing he wanted to spend the rest of his life moving earth, raising walls, and creating homes for families. He believed everyone, even those of modest means, deserved a quality home where they could live out their best dreams.

After their marriage in 1947, Gene and Marilyn founded what would become the Gene B. Glick Company, one of the largest privately held real estate development firms in the country. In the early days of the company, Gene ran the business while also holding down his day job at Peoples Bank. Marilyn supervised their home construction projects and was tenacious in securing scarce building materials.

By 1962, the company was the largest builder of single family homes in Indiana, though success was never guaranteed. "Necessity made us lean and sharp," Glick wrote in his autobiography. "We had to win or go bankrupt, and that's a great incentive." He would do whatever was necessary to deliver on commitments. In the first few years of the business, that meant pitching in at construction sites, pumping rainwater from basement excavations, laying flooring, and planting shrubs. As the construction industry grew, it meant battling red tape. In one instance, when government delays and obstacles threatened his agreements with homeowners and Glick couldn't get a response from the federal bureaucrat in authority, he got on a plane to track the man down at a conference.

Restrictions on single-family construction prompted Glick to explore multifamily opportunities in the '60s. In 1963, the company built Indiana's first co-op apartment community in Ft. Wayne, and the following year Glick helped craft legislation allowing the city of Indianapolis to accept federal funds for the construction of affordable housing. In later years, apartments would become the company's sole focus. "Gene Glick was an entrepreneur in the truest sense of the word," said David Barrett, President and CEO of the Gene B. Glick Company. "He started with very little and built a successful company that is respected throughout our industry. He was an inspiration to many of us who had the privilege of knowing and working with him."

The bulk of the fortune Gene and Marilyn Glick earned through their business has been used to fund civic projects and charitable organizations throughout Central Indiana. In 1982, the Glicks established the Eugene & Marilyn Glick Family Foundation, one of the largest private foundations in the state. The pair also established The Glick Fund of the Central Indiana Community Foundation and The Glick Fund of the Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis (JFGI). The Glicks have been major benefactors of a number of Jewish causes, including JFGI and a number of its programs and services. One of Gene Glick's favorite philanthropic projects was the Pro-100 mentoring program, administered by the Children's Bureau. Created by Glick in 1981, Pro-100 offers paid summer internships for disadvantaged youth.

Throughout his career, Glick served on numerous professional, civic and philanthropic boards.

He is in the National Housing Hall of Fame and is a Central Indiana Business Hall of Fame Laureate. He received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Butler University in 1989. He received Sagamore of the Wabash awards from Indiana governors Robert Orr (1982), Evan Bayh (1992), and Joe Kernan (2005). Glick was named an Indiana Living Legend by the Indiana Historical Society in 2002.

Gene Glick was a member of Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation. He was preceded in death by his wife of 65 years, Marilyn Koffman Glick. He is survived by his four daughters: Marianne Glick (Mike Woods), Arlene Grande (Thomas), Alice Meshbane (Andrew), and Lynda Schwartz (Mark). He is also survived by his many grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held on Friday, October 4th at 11:00 a.m. in the Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation, 6501 North Meridian Street, Indianapolis. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute at Indiana University School of Medicine or Pro 100.

To write a message to the family or leave words of condolence please visit: http://www.arnmortuary.com.

Aaron-Ruben-Nelson Mortuary is handling arrangements.

Published in the The Indianapolis Star from Oct. 3 to Oct. 4, 2013
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