John Hodowanic never did anything halfway.
The former editor of Twin Cities magazine and president of the World Press Institute threw himself into every job he held — from public relations director of the Science Museum of Minnesota, to head of communications at then-Mankato State College (where he launched radio station KMSU) to his assignment breaking Russian code as a young serviceman in the U.S. Navy.
“He always thought he was the luckiest guy because every job he had, he liked,” said son Mark Hodowanic, of Plymouth.
He died Aug. 24 at Summit Place, a memory care facility in Eden Prairie. He was 86 and had been battling Alzheimer’s disease.
Born in Chicago, Hodowanic grew up straddling big-city life and the country charms of his family’s farm in Wisconsin. He spent summers at the farm, where he developed a strong work ethic, his son said. The rest of the year he lived with his father, a mechanic, and mother, a homemaker, in Chicago, where he excelled in school. He was the first in his family to go to college, attending Northwestern University on the G.I. Bill.
During the Korean War, Hodowanic worked as a specialized radio operator, listening to Morse code and trying to break Russian code, Mark Hodowanic said. After leaving the Navy, he studied journalism and political science at Northwestern, earning both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the university’s Medill School of Journalism.
He worked in communications for Northwestern and what was then known as Mankato State College. At Mankato, he started KMSU radio station, which is still operating. The radio station is but one example of his creative mind, those who worked closely with him said.
“He came up with unique ideas about how to promote and how to further the cause of the mission,” said Karla McGray, a longtime friend who first met Hodowanic while working together at the Science Museum of Minnesota. The museum was expanding, and Hodowanic sought to grow its fan base.
“He thought it was his mission to bring the Science Museum into people’s consciousness who had never heard of it before,” McGray said.
He brought that same enthusiasm to his next job — as editor of Twin Cities magazine, a glossy publication that profiled movers and shakers and chronicled life in the area during the 1980s. “He went at it with reckless abandon,” McGray said. “He wrote wonderful stories about all the different aspects of life in the Twin Cities. He created a beautiful publication.”
He saved his best job for last, his son said. As president of the World Press Institute at Macalester College, he traveled around the country each year with a group of 10 international journalists, taking them to meet with government and journalism leaders for an inside look at how the press operates in a democracy.
“It was probably his favorite job and one that gave him the most satisfaction in that we all want to make a difference,” Mark Hodowanic said. “It always put a smile on his face just traveling around the country and feeling as strong as he did about America and making sure these journalists understood the full picture of what America was.”
Added McGray: “It became a complete passion for him. He was especially proud of one year, when they had a Jewish and a Palestinian fellow, and these two became good friends during the course of the fellowship.”
In addition to his son Mark, Hodowanic is survived by another son, Keith, of Eagan; a sister, Dori Soroe, of New Orleans; ex-wife, Adrienne “Bunny” Davis, of Plymouth, and four grandchildren. Services have been held.