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News Clips 02/22/2013
Visionary FSU leader John Carnaghi dies of pancreatic cancer
Source: Tallahassee Democrat, 02/22/13
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John Carnaghi was described by one of his bosses, former Florida State University President Sandy D’Alemberte, as “the best senior vice president for finance and administration in America.”
Who could argue? Carnaghi played a key role in reshaping FSU during his 22 years at the university, from overseeing the construction of six parking garages on a campus that had none to creating a public safety complex in the heart of the university to championing computer technology.
Carnaghi, who officially retired from FSU on Feb. 8, succumbed to pancreatic cancer Wednesday evening at Shands Hospital in Gainesville. He was 67 and had been diagnosed less than three months earlier.
“John really gave himself to the university. He was always looking at things that are innovative and different and looking at the very best practices out there,” FSU President Eric Barron said Thursday. “It’s hard to imagine anyone having more of an impact on Florida State University.”
Carnaghi came to FSU in February 1991 following two decades as a business administrator at Purdue University and Indiana-Purdue University.
At FSU, Carnaghi gained a reputation as a can-do administrator who overhauled antiquated policies and spearheaded new projects.
Among other things, Carnaghi was responsible for computerizing business records and creating the FSU card, a debit and identification card that became the model for universities across the nation.
“John gave good advice all the time,” D’Alemberte said. “He is just a very smart, forward-thinking man.”
Two of the more recent projects in which Carngahi played a key role as facilitator and visionary are College Town, the new entertainment and residential development on West Madison Street that may turn into a gateway entrance to the university, and FSU’s acquisition of the Civic Center.
He was also instrumental in almost every FSU construction project of the past 20 years, from the renovation of dorms, classroom buildings and dining halls to the new medicine, biology and psychology complexes.
Former longtime FSU Provost Larry Abele, who worked alongside Carnaghi for 16 years, marveled at his friend’s ability to turn ideas into reality.
“I wish you could find a picture of the campus before he was there and compare it to now. The quality, the landscaping, the layout of buildings — just everything is so much better,” Abele said. “He just made the campus beautiful and so much more pedestrian-friendly. It’s like a different world.”
A native of Herrin, Ill., Carnaghi earned a bachelor’s degree at Southern Illinois University and a master’s at Purdue. He was a star high school quarterback whose dreams of a big-time football career were scotched by a bad back.
One of his high school teammates was San Diego State basketball coach Steve Fisher, who led Michigan to the 1989 NCAA championship.
Carnaghi grew up a diehard fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team and their star center fielder Duke Snider: Carnaghi’s computer password at FSU was Dodger4 (Snider’s jersey number).
As an adult, he was a fierce competitor in racquetball and golf — and despite a 20 handicap, he regularly won his flight championship in golf tournaments at Golden Eagle Country Club where he was a member.
But it was his optimism and friendly personality that most marked Carnaghi, said Paul Strouts, who worked 29 years for Carnaghi at Indiana-Purdue and FSU, before leaving in 2011 for an administrative post at Georgia Tech.
“John was probably the most positive individual you’d ever find; he always had that can-do attitude and people who worked with him would feed on it,” Strouts said. “He surrounded himself with good people and empowered them to succeed. That was his legacy.”
Carnaghi is survived by his wife of 43 years, Judy; his son, Jason; daughter-in-law Amy; and grandson, Jackson.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete Thursday. FSU also plans to hold a memorial service on campus.