Karnatz pays forward lessons learned from high school teacher

  • Tags: Faculty Profile | Newsletter
Published 07/01/2019
John Karnatz

It’s hard to fathom, but adjunct professor of communications studies John Karnatz’s 17-year tenure at ECC nearly didn’t happen. When an employment opportunity with ECC presented itself in 2002, it took some convincing from his neighbor, a former ECC trustee and friend. “He bugged me until I agreed to apply,” according to Karnatz.

Even before that, Karnatz found himself well on his way toward trouble in high school until his speech teacher changed things for him.

“He saw something in me that I didn’t,” Karnatz said, “and made it clear that he wasn’t giving up on me until I recognized and acted on that potential.”

Karnatz hopes he has passed on at least a fraction of that kindness toward his students.

We caught up with Karnatz to learn more about his life and his work at ECC. Here is what he had to say:

In your words, what do you do at ECC?

ECC is in the business of edifying, or building, people. I play a small part in the construction process by teaching and helping where I can.

What is your greatest accomplishment since you’ve been here?

I try to never forget our middle name – Community – because it’s what we’re all about at ECC. It has led me to contributions with that focus. Some, like Learning Communities, help us bring excitement and engagement to learning. Some, like Service Learning, help us reach out to the greater community so we can both learn and serve. Some, like College 101, Safe Zone, or the Transition Academy, remind us that many of our own need special attention, care, and concern.

What would you do if you were ECC president for a day?

I would have my head examined. First, we already have a fine president who needs every available day to help us grow and develop. Second, I have been the president of three companies. That was enough.

What was your first ECC experience?
My first class had both my youngest student (13) and my oldest student (78). That 13-year-old is now a PhD, a physician and one of the nation’s leading cancer researchers.

What’s on your “bucket list?”

Don’t have one. Don’t need one. Don’t want one. If you feel purposeful and satisfied about what you’re doing, the last thing you need is more to do! At this point, I focus more on being the person I can be rather than the things I want to do or the places I want to go.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I still have a few investments and interests from earlier days, but spend the majority of my free time with family – especially my two grandchildren.

Where was the best place you’ve traveled to? Or, where would you like to visit?

I would go back to London at any time – if I didn’t have to get on an airplane.

What’s one fact we should know about you?

I have logged well over a million frequent flyer miles. I count every day that I don’t board a plane as a blessing.

What’s something about your job that others should know?

I regularly learn more than I teach courtesy of the interesting, diverse people that come to ECC.

What would be your “theme song?”

“Secret O’ Life” by singer-songwriter James Taylor. Google it.

What was your first job out of school?

I had already accepted a job as a director of a YMCA when I got a call from IBM late in my senior year in college. I knew nothing about computers and could barely type but, ten interviews later, I joined their marketing team and was with them for almost two decades.

What quote best describes your philosophy?

“For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” - H. L. Menken

Complete this sentence: “I enjoy working at ECC because…“

Some of the finest, most committed people I have ever met show up here every day.