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5 Minutes with John Tymitz



Aug 29, 2012


5 Minutes with John Tymitz



John Tymitz is the Executive Dean of the Fall 2012 voyage of Semester at Sea, and the former CEO of the Institute for Shipboard Education. He’s also one of the most dynamic and influential leaders among Semester at Sea, and his career stretches back to the founding days.

His first voyage was in 1972, when he and his wife sailed along with their two small children while teaching as part of Chapman University’s World Campus Afloat program. This would begin a lifetime career for Tymitz, as he worked his way up from Field Office Coordinator in 1973 to Associate Dean in 1974 and then, Associate Director of Operations.

When Chapman University cancelled the World Campus Afloat program in the ‘70s, Tymitz found himself working strategically to bring it back to life, co-founding the Institute for Shipboard Education and laying the groundwork for what would become Semester at Sea as it is today.

We sat down with Executive Dean John Tymitz for an exclusive interview to find out more about his life behind-the-scenes.

Q: What has been your Most Memorable Voyage?

“The first! 1972. Everyone’s first voyage is the most memorable, because everything is so new, but each voyage has been fantastic and wonderful, and of course, each voyage then becomes the ‘best.’”

Q: What’s your Favorite Secret Spot on the Ship?

“Forward on the new deck 8, just above the faculty and ship lounge.”

Q: How About Your Favorite On-ship Meal?

“Breakfast. Can I say breakfast?”

Q. Sure! What’s the Biggest Challenge You Face In Your Role?

“Learning the names of every student. I saw one student the other day and I asked her name and she said “You already asked me for my name,” and I said, “Yes, and I’ll probably ask you another 15 times!’”

Q: Who is Your Role Model? Who do you Look up to?

“Desmond Tutu. He got me through prostate cancer, and he’s one of the few international figures who will send you an email right after you send him one.”

Q: What Course Are You Most Excited About on This Voyage?

“Global Studies. I think Global Studies is going to shine and I think the students and the faculty are going to have fun with it.”

Q: What’s the Most Rewarding Part About Your Job?

“The students that I see every morning. The best part is many of them are smiling at me. Everyone is beautiful, as long as they smile.”

Executive Dean John Tymitz meets with the heads of the academic and administration departments each day in his office to ensure the voyage is going smoothly.
Dean John writes cards to all students whom celebrate their birthday aboard the ship.
Dean John strolls with Kathy Pao (on her birthday) past his portrait near to the computer lab.
Dean John makes it his mission to try to learn the names of each and every student aboard the MV Explorer. At the very least he comes very very close.


  1. Steven Spradling
    August 30, 2012 at 12:47 am

    Spring ’74. When John was not on the fantail, the rest of enjoyed fantail jumping. Wait, I think he was there. He failed to mention the days in the Indian Ocean with no air-conditioning, and the hatch door we lost leaving port in Kenya. One of my more vivid memories is watching a discussion on the bow of whether we should enter Mozambique just days after the coup in Portugal.

    John, thank you and thank everyone that made that semester possible for me. It made a difference in my life.

  2. Camels & Chocolate
    September 6, 2012 at 11:36 am

    I had the pleasure of sailing with John on the Global Engagement Forum last year. You guys are so lucky to get a whole semester with this fascinating man!

  3. Bill Shaw
    September 8, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    Hi John,

    So good to read news that you are back on the ship. I often think about the ship and its impact on my life and the lives of thousands of others. Marina and I continue to direct Crosscurrents International Institute. I now serve on the Board of Wilmington College, a small liberal arts, Quaker school in Ohio. As a Board member, I have taken the challenge of helping students at Wilmington develop a broad global perspective. I would like to re-connect with ISE but have lost all contacts and my emails are never answered, except with requests for more donations!

    Have a great voyage.

    Bill Shaw

  4. harvey davidowitz
    September 12, 2012 at 7:15 am


    my wife was judy sullivan. she worked in the dean’s office during the spring voyage of 1974. sadly she passed in 1999.

    finally getting around to scanning the hundreds of photos that i took on that trip. it was a chance of a lifetime. quit my job, packed a darkroom in a suitcase and left NY. you could do that when you were only 32 years old.

    would appreciate hearing from anyone who recalls judy or me.

  5. Kerin Green
    September 22, 2012 at 11:08 am

    Spring 80 voyage! Dean Tymitz was great, always a smile and he was terrific at remembering student names. I had the opportunity to see him in Boston in 2011 for an on ship event and give him a big hug! Work study assistance made my trip possible. My son just returned from Summer 2012 voyage and hope to send his sister off in a few years. John, thank you for all the work you have done and continue to do to help keep this wondeful program going.

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