Me: Retirement! How can that be? It was only yesterday I began teaching printing in central Illinois.
John: Yeah, yesterday was 40 years ago you dope.
Me: Wait a minute buddy, it was really 57 years ago when dad took me to work and said lunch is at noon and get this finished before that or you’ll go hungry.
John: Wow your old man was harsh. Did you call DHS.
Me: Hell, I was seven, what did I know about DHS. Was there even a DHS in the sixties?
John: Well, did you get your lunch?
Me: I said was seven! Food was number one priority and I ate everything in sight. I was always done by ten and riding press carts up and down the hallway.
John: So once a printer, always a printer?
Me: Yep. In the old days they called us Printers Devils. Basically, we got all the grunt work. Collating, padding, sorting type, pouring molten lead into pigs. Wait, that was really cool! Dad would say, “wear your leather shoes today boys.’ Those were the good old days. Ink does get in the blood.
John: So, was that all you did? Printing?
Me: Are you kidding me? There was baseball, football, basketball, riding bikes, hanging with the neighborhood kids, and staying away from the house from after breakfast till dinner. Chicago was a big place, lots to explore. Couldn’t miss dinner you know; mom would get mad.
John: OK so you were a growing boy. So, let’s fast forward some. High school, college, and a career. Why printing?
Me: In high school and college, it was means to make money. Gas, food, beverages of the adult variety, and of course girls. As for a career, I was going to be a teacher. Ended up being a vocational teacher and football coach. They needed someone to teach graphics and I landed my first gig. Turned out to be a good choice. I parlayed that job into a master’s degree and a professor’s position at a university. My friends would laugh when I told them I was a professor. Something about being a terrible student. What did they know?
John: No PhD?
Me: Piled higher and deeper? No way. What was I going to study? Advanced laser technology as it was related to color theory and separations? I actually know about that stuff.
John: What got you into in-plant management?
Me: Kids. The little beggars are expensive. Plus, management was a hole in my work experiences. Studied it, taught it, and knew all about it. Or so I thought. Just never did it.
John: Or so you thought, huh? Lot of people make that mistake.
Me: And I made plenty of mistakes because of that misconception. But I learned and now only make a few dozen mistakes a day. Nevertheless, it is good to remember that I did a few good things along the way.
John: That is refreshing honest. Anything specific incident you want to share due to a mistake?
Me: On the advice of counsel NO, and nobody died as a result.
John: You said you did some good things. What sticks out in your mind?
Me: Recollections are a fleeting thing at my age. I guess there are a few things that were important. The major success was making enough money each year to keep the bosses happy. Reinforcing the idea that we were essential to the overall mission. Being an example to other in-plant managers related to what it took be successful and continue to grow. Most important was making sure the joint would be in good hands after I left.
John: What is it that you want people to remember about you?
Me: I guess the fact that I cared! Not just about the job, but my people, the quality, the willingness to share our collective knowledge with others. I hope they remember me as a good leader. As for me the overall person, I hope they say I was a good husband, father, and friend.
John: You were involved with many print-related organizations. What impact did that have on your career?
Me: They were all great. IPMA was easily the best of the bunch. I had fun at all the conferences. Each had their niche. None were nearly as good as IPMA. More knowledge changed hands, more new ideas were developed, and more friends were made. Being a leader of the group was time well spent. Seeing the growth and advancement of members was priceless. I would do it again tomorrow if I was younger.
John: Retirement is just around the corner. Are you excited?
Me: Yes and no. Yes, because the world has gotten weird, and I am too stuck in my ways to adapt like I once could. More importantly I will be able to spend more time with Diane. No, because I work with some special people, and I will miss them.
John: Do you have plans? How will you stay busy?
Me: Great question! All the normal stuff. Grandkids, travel, golf, and as much other stuff that my old body will allow. When I can’t do any of that anymore, I’ll become a consultant like all the other retired printers or work at Walmart. About the same thing.
John Sarantakos received IPMA’s Outstanding Contributor Award for 2022. Read the press release at John Sarantakos, Director of Print and Mail Services, University of Oklahoma Named IPMA Outstanding Contributor.
John Sarantakos is the Director of Print and Mail Services at the University of Oklahoma. His operation is one of the largest university in-plant printers and mailers in the country with over sixty full time staff members and a budget of more than $16 million in annual sales. The staff at Printing and Mailing has earned over 260 awards for printing quality and innovative ideas. John has been with the university for 25 years and prior to that served as Director of Production at Indiana University. Before entering the in-plant management field, John was an Assistant Professor of Graphics at Central Missouri State University and taught and coached at Pontiac Township High School and Livingston Area Vocational Center in Illinois. He has over 50 years of experience in the printing field as a manager, educator, and craftsperson.
John received a Bachelor of Sciences degree in Industrial Education from Western Illinois University and a Master of Sciences degree in Graphic Arts Management from Central Missouri State University.
John is a Past President of the In-Plant Printing and Mailing Association, and he served on the Board of Directors for many years. The Franklin Stamp and Ink Society was his brainchild in 2012 after he earned his CGCM. He wanted to devise a method to elevate the CGCM/CMM members and provide leadership and mentorship opportunities to the that group.
He has written frequently and been featured in In-Plant Impressions/Graphics magazine, he writes a blog titled “The ravings of a mad printer” and speaks regularly on industry related topics.