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The inspiring journey of Annie Glenn

John and Annie Glenn, formally dressed at an event with large crowd of people in the distance.

As we navigate the daily bustle of the airport named in honor of her beloved husband, astronaut and senator John Glenn, we are reminded of Annie Glenn’s own remarkable journey — a story of unwavering resilience, courage, and advocacy for those facing adversity.

Anna Margaret Castor was born February 17, 1920, in Columbus, Ohio, to Homer and Margaret Castor. When she was three years old, they moved 70 miles east of Columbus to New Concord, Ohio, where she met her childhood playmate turned high school sweetheart, John Glenn.

John Glenn and Annie Castor 1938
John Glenn and Annie Castor on the lawn of the Castor home in New Concord, Ohio, circa 1938. Photo: John Glenn Archives, The Ohio State University

In the sixth grade, Annie became self-conscious about her stuttering. Reciting a poem in front of her class was a turning point for her. “I got up to give a poem and one of the kids laughed, and I thought, ‘uh-oh; I am not like anybody else in the room.'” – Annie Glenn in a video posted by John Glenn College of Public Affairs.

Annie pursued her passion for music at Muskingum College, specializing in music with a minor in secretarial skills and physical education, and she excelled as a member of the college swim, volleyball, and tennis teams. Despite an enticing pipe organ scholarship offer from the prestigious Juilliard School, Annie chose to remain in Ohio, prioritizing her relationship with John Glenn. The couple exchanged vows on April 6, 1943, and had two children, David and Lyn.

John and Annie Glenn March 3 1962
John and Annie Glenn ride in the New Concord, Ohio, parade honoring Glenn and the successful completion of his Friendship 7 space flight, March 3, 1962. Photo: John Glenn Archives, The Ohio State University

As her husband went on to be commissioned in the Marine Corps and became the first American to orbit Earth, Annie shied away from media attention because of her stutter. At the age of 53, Annie embarked on a three-week treatment program at the Hollins Communications Research Institute in Roanoke, Virginia. The course aimed to assist her in managing her stuttering, offering newfound hope for improved speech. While the treatment proved highly beneficial and significantly enhanced her ability to communicate, Annie did not consider herself completely “cured” of her stuttering challenges. Nevertheless, she experienced a remarkable breakthrough, gaining the confidence to engage in vocal interactions with others. This newfound ability proved invaluable as her husband embarked on his Senate campaign, allowing Annie to actively support him by delivering speeches at public events and rallies. Harnessing her voice, Annie dedicated herself to raising awareness for individuals with disabilities who had often been overlooked, ensuring their stories and struggles were brought to the forefront.

John and Annie Glenn with daughter Lyn
John and Annie Glenn, with daughter Lyn, visit The Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee in the press box during a football game, circa 1992. Photo: John Glenn Archives, The Ohio State University

Throughout her career, Annie served on the advisory boards of several prominent organizations focused on child abuse prevention, speech therapy, and hearing impairment. Her expertise and dedication contributed to shaping the direction and policies of these organizations, fostering a more supportive and inclusive environment for those affected by communication challenges. In recognition of her remarkable journey and as a testament to her enduring legacy, the Annie Glenn Award was established. This prestigious honor celebrates individuals who exhibit extraordinary resilience and determination in overcoming communication disorders, serving as an inspiration to others facing similar obstacles. In 1998, defense secretary William Cohen honored Annie with the Department of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service. Cohen called her “a hero in her own right.”

Annie and John Glenn 1998 NASA
Annie and John Glenn pose for the formal portrait of John Glenn in his spacesuit as a crew member on the Space Shuttle Discovery mission, circa 1998. Photo: NASA

Annie accomplished so much advocating for others. She received an honorary doctorate of public service from The Ohio State University in 2009, where she was also an adjunct professor of speech pathology. She served alongside her husband on the board of trustees for Muskingham University, their alma mater, and Annie was named a distinguished alumni fellow in speech communications.

At the time of John Glenn’s death in 2016, they had been married for 73 years. Annie passed away on May 19, 2020, at the age of 100. She was survived by her two children and grandchildren.

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