Glen had been born with
spinal muscular atrophy, a disease whose victims progressively lose their
ability to move. At first, doctors predicted that he wouldn't live to see
his second birthday. Even if he survived, he was not supposed to be a
functional human being. But for 30 years Glen beat the odds. He used a
motorized wheelchair to move, a portable ventilator to breathe and
voice-activated software to work at a computer, and he acted as if these
were minor inconveniences. "I'm just a person who needs more equipment,"
If he managed to remain
upbeat and enthusiastic, it was partly because he had found the passion
that constantly engaged him. He loved to go to the track, to handicap
races and to bet; he had finished his daily speed-figure calculations
shortly before he died of cardiac arrest at his home in Ocala, Fla.
Glen's mother, Patti
Hackett, had been determined that her son would live his life as normally
as possible. They were living in Cincinnati when he was ready to start his
education, and she enrolled him in a mainstream school. In an era when
society was not attuned to the needs and rights of the handicapped, school
officials tried to bar him. Hackett appealed directly to the mayor of
Cincinnati, Jerry Springer, and won her battle to keep him in class.
Glen did well in school
and made many friends. He was the statistician for school baseball teams,
and that sport was his first love. After taking a trip to visit seven
major league ballparks, he recognized that the facilities for handicapped
fans at Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium were distinctly subpar and
undertook a campaign to improve conditions. When the city council ordered
the stadium to make changes, the Associated Press reported: "The drive to
improved access was initiated by Glen Gallivan, a 14-year-old handicapped
While he enjoyed
record-keeping for baseball teams, Glen thought he might be able to use
his facility with numbers and statistics in a more profitable fashion. His
mother said, "He knew he wasn't going to make money by mowing lawns or
working at Burger King," and Glen wondered if might be able to make money
at the track. He started studying the races, and when he collected $150 on
his first winning bet, he was hooked.
In 1997, when he was an
undergraduate at the University of Florida, Glen attended Churchill Downs'
seminar for college journalism students; the annual event is held in the
track press box on the weekend before the Kentucky Derby. Glen wasn't
particularly interested in the seminar, but he had always dreamed of going
to Churchill and seeing the Derby. Once he was there, he pleaded with
publicity director Karl Schmitt for a pass to cover the Derby -- and
eventually reported on the race for a Florida radio station.
Glen introduced himself
to me in the press box, and during the week we talked often about racing
and handicapping. I saw a way to put his interests and skills to good use.
A partner and I operate
a business that provides to the Daily Racing Form the Beyer Speed Figures
that appear in the record of every thoroughbred. We and our employees
download information about the day's races at every American racetrack,
analyze it, make our calculations and transmit our speed figures back to
the Form. I thought Glen could be an ideal employee. Since he was adept at
using a computer, his physical handicaps would not handicap him in this
job. When I broached the idea to him, he was enthusiastic; after a few
weeks of training, he started working daily to produce speed figures. He
had plenty of other activities, too: He was the racing editor of a
publication in Ocala for a few years, and he maintained his own Web site,
Bet Glen 2 Win, where he made daily selections for tracks around the
In a society where
people regularly ask for benefits and dispensations because they are
disadvantaged, Glen wanted no favors and made no excuses. In the six years
that I was his boss, he never uttered the phrase, "I can't do this." His
spirit never failed him, even though his frail body did.