Carroll Alumnus John Stolarski Named Top Business Leader

Career FocusAuburn U Architecture Grad among "Under 40" Leaders in South Mississippi

By Sylvia Blair

When Carroll Community College graduate John Stolarski is referred to as a successful alumnus, he said he feels genuinely humbled.

A 1998 Carroll graduate, Stolarski has completed an educational and professional journey that has taken this Carroll County native to several parts of the country in pursuit of  becoming an architect. That journey has been marked by juggling homework with two part-time jobs; pursuing two bachelor's degrees simultaneously; and obtaining his architectural license while working at a prestigious firm. He has recently been recognized as a leader with a local business award.

A spirit of humility is the first thing one notices when having a conversation with Stolarski about his accomplishments after graduating from Carroll. A sense of gratitude also flows through the stories Stolarski tells about his fond memories of Carroll.

Stolarski, 33, is grateful that Carroll Community College provided him with such a solid educational foundation. The Westminster high school graduate enrolled at Carroll in 1996 after leaving Temple University, where he studied for a brief time.

"Temple was a good architecture school, but the student/teacher ratio for my core classes was too high," Stolarski said.  "For example, my first calculus class at Temple had 450 students in it. I decided not to go back. Instead, I decided to enroll at Carroll. I had family members who attended Carroll before me. I knew it would be a great way to re-group and complete my core curriculum affordably."

Stolarski pursued an Associate of Arts in General Studies and a Certificate in Computer Aided Design (CAD) at Carroll. He also worked two jobs, which limited time for extra-curricular activities. "I was able to find some time to play pick-up volleyball, under the supervision of a college fitness instructor, every Wednesday at the college gym located on Center street in the mid-1990's." 

Stolarski immersed himself in coursework for two years after starting his program at Carroll. He received an associate degree in 1998. "I had a great experience at Carroll," Stolarski said. "I could tell that the instructors cared about my success. They would stay late after class to help me if I had any questions. I believe that my time at Carroll prepared me for undergraduate studies and for life as well," Stolarski said.

"The life lessons I learned from my CAD Instructor Ed Goldberg were about integrity, good study habits, and time management. Ed was a mentor to me," he said.

Stolarski first became interested in architecture as a career in the seventh grade after completing a career choice questionnaire. "The aptitude test showed I would make a good cartoonist or architect. I grew up loving to play with Lego® and Lincoln Log® toys."

Stolarski transferred from Carroll to a five-year professional architecture school after graduating with his Associate of Arts degree in General Studies. He enrolled in Auburn University in Alabama. He graduated with two bachelor's degrees, one in architecture and one in interior architecture.

"After architecture school, I met my wife-to-be, a lovely "Southern Belle" from Mississippi. My professors had been encouraging me and my classmates to apply to firms in large cities after college. But a smaller firm was more to my liking. I married my sweetheart and we moved to Mississippi, where her family members lived," he said. "I also found a job there."

"I am currently a senior project manager for Eley Guild Hardy Architects, P.A., based in Biloxi, Miss. This is the largest architecture firm in the state of Mississippi," he said. "I am responsible for the daily management of 10 to 12 members of our production staff who work on roughly 15 projects in different stages, ranging from conceptual design through construction. I oversee and coordinate all elements of the following: design, engineering consulting, permits, estimating and budgeting, and construction management.  I am also responsible for caring for the needs of four of our largest repeat clients.

"My work load can fluctuate depending on the economy. For instance, at one point after Hurricane Katrina hit this area, there was a large amount of federal money available for recovery. I was managing over 25 projects at once, totaling over $350 million dollars.

"I love my job. It is never the same twice. I meet a lot of great people. I have a great sense of accomplishment when I see a building completed that will make the community a better place," Stolarski said.

Stolarski was named one of the "Top 10 Business Leaders Under 40" in South Mississippi by South Mississippi Business Journal in 2009.  The award is given to local business men and women who exhibit success in business and community leadership by serving on boards and volunteer organizations. Over 100 people were nominated for the designation.

This year, Stolarski will graduate from "Leadership Gulf Coast," a competitive program for selected local leaders in which participants learn about all aspects of the community.

For now, Stolarski is busy and content as a husband, father of an infant, and architect. He aspires to climb up the corporate ladder and perhaps become a CEO of a firm one day. He also looks forward to expanding his family in the future.

When he is not involved in work, family activities, or community service, his mind may wind back to the years he spent at Carroll when he was just starting out. If he could share any words of wisdom with current students, he would tell them to take advantage of every form of help from instructors and others at the college.

Finally, he said he would encourage students to relax, enjoy their two-year college experiences, and realize that their college years will go by very quickly.
 

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