Full circle

David La Guardia, Ph.D., ’65, ’67G, celebrated his 42nd year in 2010 as a faculty member at John Carroll. He has worn many hats ranging from English instructor (1968) to academic vice president (2002-2008) and received many accolades, including a Culicchia Award for Excellence in Teaching, a Distinguished Faculty Award, and Carroll News Person of the Year. In 2008, he returned to teaching from his administrative duties.

Originally from Pittsburgh, La Guardia is one of four siblings who became educators.

Q: Who or what inspired you to go into teaching?

There were a couple of particularly fine professors in the English department – one was Joe Cotter, and another was Jim Magner. Joe was a stern taskmaster but also was tremendously witty, telling jokes that became legend. Jim was a sensitive poet. Both were great influences, as were a couple of high school teachers.

La Guardia

As I was about to graduate, I thought I’d teach high school English, but I applied for graduate assistantships and accepted one at John Carroll. That’s when I found my voice and realized this is it.

Q: Most memorable students?

When I was a student, we had social fraternities – the University Club and the IXYs. I was a member of the University Club and then became faculty moderator. I would often have students over to the house. I had young children at the time. One of those students was Tim Russert, already a leader. I can see him in my living room with my son on his knee.

Q: How have teaching methods changed throughout the years?

As I was returning to the department after years in administration, I wondered about the changes I might see. People had told me student attention spans were shorter and some didn’t like to read much … of course, in literature that’s a big problem. But I haven’t found this at all among our majors.

What I have found is accessibility to the professor has changed because of email. This means that students can reach out to you at any time. That’s a fine thing, because you also can use that media for many positive reasons, whether for more elaborate explanations or bringing students together online.

Q: Moments of joy?

I was blessed at an early time. I had delayed finishing my Ph.D., and one day I was informed that an anonymous benefactor had contributed funds so I could take a year off to complete the degree. It was a wonderful moment in my career.

The other moment was before I published a book on Wallace Stevens. Art Noetzel, the AVP at the time, had read the manuscript and sent me a flyer about the Brown University Press first-book prize, which I ultimately received. He started the process.

Q: Family, hobbies, and favorite pursuits?

I’m married with two stepsons and two adult children. My wife, Lisa, is chief of staff to the dean of medicine at Case. My daughter is a lawyer in Bellingham, Wash., with two children. My son lives south of San Francisco with his wife and two children. My two stepsons are 24 and 20, and the younger one plays football for Carroll.

I love cycling. During the summer, I try to ride 15 to 20 miles a day. I also enjoy nature – I kayak, fish, and, of course, do a lot of reading.

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