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Gleim Publications founder dies

Gleim Publications founder Irvin Gleim. Photo courtesy of Gleim Aviation.

Gleim was known in aviation as the force behind Gleim Publications and the company’s ever-present test preparation study materials. He and his wife, Darlene, started Gleim Publications in 1974, writing test prep materials in their kitchen, and using the garage as a warehouse. A leader in the field, Gleim’s approach was to give the student only the most necessary information in order to pass the test, and thousands of students owe their perfect scores on FAA knowledge tests to his efficient approach.

Although aviation was his passion, Gleim was an accountant by profession. He earned a Ph.D. in accounting from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and later became a full professor at the Fisher School of Accounting at the University of Florida. Mentoring students in the classroom, and later through his study materials, was his life’s calling. As much as Gleim’s study materials are prized in aviation, his contributions to the field of accounting are just as significant.

Gleim understood branding long before consultants were paid six figures to explain it to executives. Although each Gleim test preparation book has a formal name, everyone simply knows them as the “red books.” Some students probably don’t even know they’re produced by Gleim Publications, and with no outward ego to speak of, I doubt Gleim cared.

I had the privilege of working for Gleim in the early 2000s for a short period. I had worked line service previously, but I consider my time with Gleim as my first real job in aviation. Gleim was always kind and gracious, and his teaching hat never came off. I remember being called into his office the first time. Completely clueless, I strolled in and had a seat. “Where are your pen and paper?” he asked. Thus began the lessons. He taught me to be prepared, pay attention to details, and focus on the task at hand.

Our aviation team was small, and we all sat in the same small room. Excited to work with other pilots, my colleagues and I would invariably start to talk airplanes. Gleim would glide by silently, duck his head in, and say, “sterile cockpit.”

The stripped-down nature of the books perfectly reflects his personality, which seemed to value efficiency over all else. At the airport he was known for taking his Piper Super Cub on the long runway to do multiple touch and goes on the same pass. Why fly a traffic pattern each time and only get one landing when you can get three?

As someone with a completely opposite personality, the experience was sometimes frustrating, but his methods clearly worked. Jamie Beckett, AOPA’s ambassador in Florida, spent six years with Gleim. So did Eric Crump, the leader of a successful collegiate aviation program. One of my co-workers at the time went on to fly for a major airline, another has started multiple companies and worked for a stint at Jeppesen, and a third is a successful aviation executive.

One of our proudest achievements at the time was a new logbook, a product we believed was completely different from anything else on the market. As it happens, a few days ago I finished the last entry in my personal copy, the same week Gleim finished his. Thanks for everything, Dr. Gleim. You will be missed.

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