MARCH 19, 1956
In 1953 a dream came true for Alfred Glassell Jr. when he wrestled a 1,560-pound black marlin with a rod and reel for nearly two hours and boated the record catch. Now, when he speaks of the vision he has for the Glassell School of Arts in Houston, saying that "in the next 50 years there won't be a single great artist that hasn't spent time here," you take Glassell, 89, at his word.
The school, which is affiliated with the Houston Museum of Fine Arts and was mostly paid for by a donation from Glassell, attracts aspiring artists for undergraduate study and offers a one-year fellowship program for 10 young artists. Four artists have gone on to have their work displayed in New York's Whitney Museum of American Art.
Glassell's interest in art goes back to the early 1940s, when he took a liking to Akan gold sculptures and ultimately became the largest collector of such artwork in the U.S., with more than 900 pieces. Much of that collection has been displayed at the Houston museum, for which Glassell has been a benefactor for more than 30 years.
The son of a Texas energy tycoon, Glassell had the financial means to pursue his passions, including the sport that he became hooked on from the time he reeled in a four-pound bass as a three-year-old. After fishing the hot spots along the Texas coast, he developed a taste for the big fish. He tried the waters off southern Florida without great success and then headed for the Indian and Pacific oceans in search of the biggest game fish in the world. In the late '40s he commissioned marine biologists from Yale and Miami to perform an in-depth analysis of the Pacific's currents and their affect on sea life. The scientists determined that two powerful currents met at the western point of South America, creating an upwelling of marine nutrients off the coast of Peru. Glassell believed that the area off Cobo Blanco would be a rich fishing spot. He and his crew went to that location in 1953 and hauled in the 16-foot, 1,560-pound black marlin, which remains the all-tackle record for that fish and is on display at the Smithsonian.
Open-heart surgery in 1986 ended Glassell's big-game fishing. He devotes his time to his oil and gas production company, the museum and school and his family, which includes wife Clare, five children and six grandchildren. He still wets a hook from time to time but doesn't cast for anything bigger than five pounds. "I guess I'll have to take up golf," says Glassell, "but not until I retire."