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John Karrel

Year of Graduation: 
1971
Exeter alum John Karrel with friends at a reunion

"Friendships keep deepening, becoming richer and more complex. Exeter is an amazing place."

When it comes to his alma mater, John Karrel ’71 doesn’t mince words. “I’m an Exeter junkie,” he confesses unabashedly. It’s hardly a surprise, therefore, to hear that when then-class president Dan Hunter approached Karrel at their 40th reunion and asked him to serve as class correspondent, he made what he laughingly describes as a three-second decision. “I love to talk with people and find out what they’re doing,” Karrel explains, “and I’ve always had strong feelings for Exeter and the people in my class, so, on the spur of the moment, I said yes.” 

For Karrel, the urge to give back is strong. Although his time at Exeter was short — the Redding, Connecticut, native attended the Academy for his upper and senior years — Karrel characterizes it as incredibly rewarding: “I did not come from a family tradition of attending private schools, but I was looking for a challenge, and my parents and I liked what Exeter had to offer. I had a great two years there.”

From Exeter, Karrel went on to Yale, and later UCLA, where he completed his MBA. He has spent his professional life in the marketing and advertising world, first with such well-known agencies as Doyle Dane Bernbach and Saatchi & Saatchi, and later as principal of his own industry search firm, John Karrel & Associates. Today, Karrel happily describes himself as semiretired, with time for “nonwork work” such as volunteering for Exeter.

Class correspondent is not, however, Karrel’s first foray into volunteering for the Academy. He was already involved with his class before stepping into that role, active on committees for development and reunion attendance. He was initially drawn into the volunteer cycle by then class president Bill Rawson, who approached him at their 20th reunion and asked if he’d work on fundraising for their 25th reunion with class of ’71-member Sam Perkins. Karrel decided to engage. “It was a great experience,” he says. “I hadn’t known Sam at all when we were in school, but we got together all those years later and he became a good friend.”

That’s the wonderful thing about Exeter, Karrel continues. “Even though I graduated years ago, the experience just keeps getting richer. The ability to create new friendships as well as continue old ones is incredible.” A case in point: Karrel recently began his second term as class correspondent, tag teaming with longtime pal Eric Freedman. “Eric was my closest friend when I was a student at Exeter and we’ve stayed in touch over the years, so when Greg Todd, my first partner as correspondent, decided to step down, I immediately reached out to Eric. We’ve been having a great time sharing the role. We’re always shooting emails back and forth, chatting about Exeter and gathering ideas for the column.”

Volunteering involves a significant time commitment, Karrel concedes, but for alumni who feel a strong pull toward Exeter, it makes a lot of sense. “I don’t do it just to give back, although that’s certainly important — I’m very grateful for my time at Exeter and what it did for me,” he says. “It’s also about cultivating the friendships I’ve made over the years. They keep deepening with active involvement.”

A student of the Vietnam era, Karrel admits that Exeter was not without its periods of unsettledness during his tenure, but he says the bonds of friendship were a constant at a time of political unrest. With the current difficulties facing the Academy, Karrel confesses that relationships are once more being tested. “Recent developments at the school have created some very stressful moments among classmates, and yet friendships keep deepening, becoming richer and more complex. Exeter is an amazing place."