Honoring the Past, Looking to the Future

As one of his final acts, an alumnus honors his father with a new professorship.

John J. Krafsig Jr., Esq. ’49 (seated) with his wife, Sandra.
John J. Krafsig Jr., Esq. ’49 (seated) with his wife, Sandra.

“Learn as much as you can,” John J. Krafsig Jr., Esq. ’49 said when asked in August if he had any advice for University of Scranton students. “You only get a limited opportunity to do something meaningful.”

Although those words would ring true at any point in time, they took on an additional layer of significance when Krafsig passed away in early January 2017 after a brief illness. As one of his final acts, Krafsig and his wife, Sandra, pledged an estate gift of $500,000 to honor his late father’s memory by naming The John J. Krafsig Sr. Endowed Professorship in History. When fully endowed, the fund will provide an annual income for a professor of history and will ensure that future generations of Scranton students continue to learn the lessons of the past, a practice that was near and dear to John’s heart.

“Reality is something that students need to know more about, and American history is a true example of reality,” he said.

John, a native of Harrisburg, learned early on how education could affect one’s reality. When he was growing up, his father, John Sr., found his lack of formal education to be a major barrier to improving his station in life.

“He had an appreciation for knowledge,” John explained. “It was his dream that I should go to college, and, since he was born in Scranton, he believed The University of Scranton would be the best place for me to get my education.”

When he arrived at the University in 1945, John had little more to his name than the love of learning that his father instilled in him and a pink fuzzy blanket to comfort him. The University of the late ’40s was vastly different from the campus Scranton students enjoy today; many of its buildings were Army barracks, and John stayed with a private family due to its lack of dormitories. Still, the core values of religion, morals and culture were present, and he credits his Jesuit education at Scranton with laying the foundation for a remarkable career practicing law.

"(Scranton) opened my eyes to the importance of knowledge and gave me the stimulation to learn as much as possible,” he said.

After graduation, John studied law at Georgetown University and eventually opened his own practice in Harrisburg. Over the course of his legal career, he tried cases in several states and presented cases and arguments to every level of appellate court, including the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and the Supreme Court of the United States.

“When I started out with my pink fuzzy blanket, I could never have imagined that my life would be so rewarding,” he said.

John said he often drew inspiration from the Sermon on the Mount as he strived to fulfill the Jesuit ideal of magis. For more than 40 years, he supported a La Salette mission in Myanmar (formerly Burma), assisting its efforts to combat leprosy and spread the Gospel.

“I’ve discovered in my travels there is no ‘least of them’ in the eyes of God,” he said. “If you’re fortunate and things are working out well for you, you don’t always realize how many people are in less fortunate circumstances.”

Although he is gone, John’s spirit will live on at Scranton.

“This professorship was a dream come true for John,” Sandra said. “This wonderful legacy really honors these two incredible men.”

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