JOSEPH J. KOVARIK
Rotary District 5960 Governor 2012-2013
St. Paul Rotary—Club #10
7749 Inskip Trail
Cottage Grove, MN 55016
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When Joe graduated from St. Mary’s College (Winona, MN), his professional goal was clear: Be the best teacher of English ever. Pursuing that end, he managed a large English and Speech department in a suburban high school outside of Chicago—the place of his birth. While still living in the Windy City, he attained a Master of Arts degree from Loyola University (Chicago, IL).
"I moved to Minnesota,” says Joe, “to ostensibly teach in the then rapidly expanding Minnesota Community College System.” He taught at Normandale Community College and subsequently opened up the campus of Inver Hills Community College. “But the real reason for coming North,” adds Joe, “is my unproven sociological axiom that if you want to know where your soon-to-be-married son will live, find out where his wife-to-be is from.” Needless to say, his wife, Kathy, is from the St. Paul area.
Joe then traded up his administrative and instructional skills for a first-time position as Education Director in a substantial financial firm in St. Paul. Soon after, he became the Vice President of Personnel. An ensuing three-company merger enabled Joe to assume the charter role of Vice President of Education and Training. He says, “It was like being the Dean of the Business. Dollars and programs were plentiful for employees, officers and directors across a four-state area.”
However, a significant economic downturn forced the company to cut discretionary spending. The comprehensive Education and Training department was eliminated—functions and personnel gone. Joe was resilient, thinking “I’m not the victim of corporate downsizing, but the beneficiary of corporate right-sizing.” The “pink slip” enabled him to begin anew.
Joe’s next career step was his first experience with private consulting where he specialized in the unique field of “white-collar” productivity. At a Rotary meeting a couple of years later, a fellow Rotarian offered Joe a position as National Sales Manager for his manufacturing company. Though Joe enjoyed the cross-country travel to work with sales representatives in every major market, he yearned to return to the development of people.
Consequently, he began his independent consulting practice in “Sales and Management Performance Coaching” which has taken him to nearly every state in the “lower 48” and two provinces in Canada. Joe summarizes his return to a consultative teaching role as “similar to my first job, the difference is that the ‘students’ are a bit older and the nation’s the classroom.”
Joe’s initial exposure to Rotary International was in 1977 when he was recommended by the Rotary Club of St. Paul and selected by the District to be a member of the then-all male GSE Team to India. Two years later he joined Club #10. He has been actively involved at Club, District, and International levels ever since, including the gratification of being GSE Team Leader to the Philippines in 1999. He was Club 10 President in 2007-2008. Joe, too, is an inaugural member of the District 5960 Board of Directors.
He was the first person to join with PDG Steve Wilcox who was developing the Visioning Program for D5960 Clubs. Moreover, he has further assisted Steve since Visioning has branched out beyond USA borders. Joe has taught the how-to-visioning skills to facilitators in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.
Joe is a multiple Paul Harris Fellow. With the St. Paul Rotary Foundation, he is an Elmer L. Andersen Fellow.
Joe and his wife, Kathy, who is an Elmer L. Andersen Fellow, reside outside the Capital city of St. Paul. They have two married children and 5 grandchildren living within 30 minutes.