Remembering Dr. C

By Tim Ertle ’11

When you’re a professor at the same university for 38 years, as John Czerapowicz, Ph.D., ’59 was at John Carroll, the number of lives you touch is incalculable. Dr. C, as his students and colleagues affectionately called him, taught at the University from 1966 to 2004 and left an impression on many. He passed away this past November at age 73.

Czerapowicz

During his time as a professor in the political science department, Dr. C instructed students such as Pete Sheehan ’78, who came to know the professor well through the political science club, which Czerapowicz moderated.

“He’d come to our meetings, listen to the students, and enjoy the back-and-forth,” Sheehan says. “Even if he disagreed with you, he’d be open to hearing you out. That’s why students loved to stop by his office – where his desk was always cluttered – and just talk to him. Dr. C had a way of making people comfortable.”

Some of that affect had to do with his personality and ability to make light of subjects that generally were considered serious.

“He was just a witty guy,” says Larry Schwab, Ph.D., a professor in the political science department.

Schwab joined the department in 1976. At the time, the department had only four other faculty members. Schwab, considered to be one of the founding members of the department, worked alongside Dr. C for 30 years and remained his friend until his death.

“John had a great laugh and was a super human being,” he says. “He was a big sports fan, so he and I would talk about the Browns or Indians. Even after he retired, he was fun to have around, so we’d always invite him to department functions.”

Czerapowicz’s love of sports can be traced back to his childhood in the Tremont neighborhood on Cleveland’s West Side. The youngest of John and Mary Czerapowicz’s five children had four older sisters. The oldest, Josephine, who taught history at John Carroll for 12 years, recalls her brother enjoying baseball, football, and hockey.

While Czerapowicz liked to have fun, he took many things seriously – particularly his faith. His parents raised devout Catholics in Saint John Cantius Parish where Dr. C attended his entire life. Because Catholic education was important to the Czerapowicz family, Dr. C attended Saint Ignatius High School before attending Carroll. Even today, his sister, Sr. Mary Hyacinth S.S.J.-T.O.S.F., is an assistant principal at Regina High School in Warren, Mich., where she carries on the Czerapowicz legacy of educating.

When it came to education, Dr. C was known for being tough and teaching challenging classes, yet he still was popular with students because of his good rapport. Sheehan recalls international relations courses being Czerapowicz’s specialty, and how he’d cover a great deal of material.

Dr. C with students in the 1980s

“When I was in school, there was so much going on with the Soviets, and I remember him talking so fast because he had much to say,” he says. “He had so much to share with the students, and he used to stop to ask if we were understanding everything. Students would ask him to slow down, and he would for a little while, but because Dr. C was so passionate he’d speed up again.”

No matter if it was teaching a class about the Soviet Union, talking to students in his free time, or dealing with his colleagues, Czerapowicz maintained the same attitude.

“I remember we had a department function at Carroll lodge 20 years ago, and it was on a Sunday afternoon, so the Browns were playing,” Schwab says. “We had our families there and were sitting around watching the game. The Browns were losing in the third quarter, so I decided to go outside and join everyone else, but Dr. C and my son stayed inside to watch the rest of the game. The Browns came back to win the game. I didn’t believe it when I heard the news. But John was always an optimist and had a positive outlook, and that’s why people like to be around him.”

They can’t physically be around him anymore, but the memories of Dr. C live on – even with students such as Sheehan, who was taught by Czerapowicz more than 30 years ago.

His legacy also will be remembered at the end of each academic year when a graduating senior receives the Dr. John V. Czerapowicz Award from the political science department in recognition of their academic achievements. JCU


1 Comment


  1. Laryn D. Runco '84

    What a brilliant man and tremendous professor. We were truly blessed by the opportunity to learn from Dr C. I had him for two of the most amazing classes I had at Carroll, International Relations and the most fun you could ever have in two weeks, his Intersession course called International Relations: Simulation & Gaming.

    I don’t know what was more remarkable, his photographic memory or his compassion. Dr C was a true inspiration to all whose lives he touched. My wish is that all the students at Carroll today, find and know a professor as influential to them as Dr Czerapowicz was to us!