by Steven Hernandez
As a young man, John Ventola searched day-to-day for something that would satisfy both his curiosity and eagerness to learn. Coming from a working-class family the lists for such activities was short. Then one day, he noticed that when his parents wanted to amuse themselves they would pick up something to read.
This led to routine expeditions to the local library with his father and two sisters.“ It seemed perfectly normal to me to pick up a book as well,” Ventola said.
Ventola, now in his tenth year as an English professor at Glendale Community College cites those early trips to the library, as well as his thirst for knowledge, as the main reasons he became a professor.
Presently, he is coordinating the production of GCC’s annual student creative art magazine “The Traveler,” which enables students the artistic freedom of expression by allowing them to submit their non-fiction, fiction and artwork pieces for publishing.
His office is located along a narrow row of interchangeable offices only distinguishable by the nameplates to the left of every door. As you first step foot into his office you get a sense of organized chaos.
Post-it notes, books, and folders sprawled about aide in keeping track of his five classes. Family pictures and sports memorabilia dress the walls and become an allusion as to the type of individual John Ventola is.
English professor and close friend, David Nelson, sums up Ventola as a very caring and down to earth person who loves his family and his students.
Speaking with him ,you find yourself undoubtedly charmed by his smooth ,New York, tone that turns hours to minutes during any given conversation.
At first glance, he stands a couple inches short of six feet with a James Gandolfini-esque frame and Wayfarer lenses. But, when one looks closer they discover the body of a man with more than a few stories to tell.
Ventola grew up in Buffalo, New York. Growing up he worked for the Teamsters as a forklift operator on the docks and did so for around twenty years. All while raising his three children, Daniel, David, and Kristen with his wife Sue.
He never enjoyed that job much; he wrote a work of poetry illustrating his unhappiness for it.
“Dante, I too know something of hell…hell is having to do this for the rest of my life,” penned Ventola in his poem.
Once the children went off to pursue their individual life goals, Ventola at the age of 37 went back to school at the State University of New York to pursue his. Here, he earned his bachelors and masters degrees. After that, he worked through various adjunct teaching positions eventually settling down in Phoenix, Arizona as an English and creative writing professor at GCC.
After taking a second glance into his office, the ever-drawn shades behind him bring to light even more of his story.
Plastered on the walls, are pictures of him and his wife in alluring far-off lands. With such an insatiable appetite for discovery, Ventola and his wife have been able to tour places such as Italy, Morocco, Paris, Portugal, and London.
Along the way, he’s experienced colorful cultures that allow him to speak with universality and give new compositions to his stories.
He finds all the traveling and ability to interact with other cultures liberating and he is extremely thankful for the places he has been and the things he has seen.
“99.5 percent can’t say they’ve seen some of the places I’ve seen… I appreciate what I’ve done, ” said Ventola.
When the hands of time signal his conclusion as a professor. He and his wife would hope of moving to Italy permanently.
Ventola, now the ripe 63 years of age does not see any immediate plans to slow down.“ I don’t feel 63, I don’t really think of my age, I just keep going,” said Ventola.
As the curtain falls, the wise words of one of this professor’s favorite writer, Richard Russo sums up the life and personality of such a man and educator as John Ventola.
“Non basta una vita.”
”One life isn’t enough.”