Engineering, Marquette Business

Getting to know Executive Director of Innovation Alley John Knapp

John Knapp, executive director of Innovation Alley, sits with his wife, Julie.

John Knapp, formerly the director of external relations for the College of Business Administration, was named the inaugural executive director of Innovation Alley last semester. As executive director, he is charged with developing a five-year strategic plan to take Innovation Alley from concept to a centralized developer and convener of programs that develop leaders in innovation on campus and within industry.

Knapp recently took a break to chat with Marquette Today about his love of music, J.R.R. Tolkien and a well-placed Popeye quote.

Hometown: Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin

Family: Julie (wife), Archie (dog), Cricket (dog), Lila (cat)

John Knapp’s dogs, Archie and Cricket.

Hobbies and interests: I enjoy spending time with my wife and our dogs, as well as with my brothers (who both also live in Milwaukee). I love running, soccer, camping and spending time on the water. I grew up playing music (jazz piano and guitar), so you can find me at some of our excellent venues here in the city to catch a show. And you can certainly always find me watching the Packers, Bucks or Brewers every chance I get.

Favorite movies: Hands-down the Lord of the Rings. I’m that nerdy guy who got really hooked on the books at a young age and then read the Silmarillion and all the other unfinished tales. So, I’m also probably the person you don’t want to watch the movies with — I have to interject and explain casual references whenever I can. When I heard about the Tolkien collection at Marquette, I just knew I had to work here…

John Knapp’s parents, Rev. Dr. Matthew and Kim Knapp.

Heroes: My parents inspire me. They raised four sons, are incredibly loving and compassionate individuals, and have spent their entire lives caring not only for their sons but also the community around them in Sturgeon Bay. They have literally impacted generations of young people in that community through their work professionally (my father is a minister and my mother is a special-needs teaching assistant) and through the many other ways they give back.

Favorite quotes/mottos: “I y’am what I y’am.” – Popeye. My family hails from our ancestral farm in a southern Illinois town that just so happens to be the birthplace of E.C. Segar, who created the Popeye character. I have also found his quote to be a high form of self-actualization.

My second favorite quote is from John Dewey, a truly innovative psychologist, philosopher and educational reformer who said, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” I connect deeply with his belief that education is essential for changing society and addressing timely issues that impact us all.

Currently reading: Mostly academic literature on college students’ sense of belonging for my dissertation. But when I do get the chance, I will often pick up a book on history. I’ve had a fascination with understanding contemporary American history as well as ancient history.

Favorite vacation spots: Door County. I get to go home and see my parents, reconnect with old friends and still get to do all the great things the peninsula has to offer.

Biggest career learning experience: To always remain centered on the passion that drove you to your work. I think its important to remember that working at an institution like Marquette is an opportunity to wake up everyday and engage in work that can literally change the course of someone’s life. I remain humbled by that opportunity and the responsibility it entails.

Fun facts: My high school rock band once played an opening set for Jackson Browne.