History teacher Mr. John Kirchgassner is as much a symbol of McNicholas High School as the Rocket. He has taught history for forty years at McNicholas, since 1972. During part of this time he also coached the men’s basketball team. His enthusiasm for teaching and knowledge of the subjects he has taught has astounded students since he began teaching. He has taught hundreds of students about the lives of people from the past, but not many know the story of his own life.
Kirchgassner was born on a farm in Batesville, Indiana. He had two brothers and three sisters, and played basketball at North Dearborn High School. Kirchgassner, more affectionately known as Kirch, received his degree in History at Marian University in Indianapolis where he met his wife, Carmen. She was an international student from Bolivia, studying at Marian and rooming with Kirch’s sister. When she would go home with his sister, Kirch would take her out horseback riding. Her student visa would expire after she graduated college, and so Kirch married her in 1972, one month after graduation.
Kirch then moved to Cincinnati, and began working at McNicholas teaching history at age 21, while working towards his graduate degree at Xavier University.
“I’ve stayed here for so long because I just like it: the students, the other teachers, everyone,” Kirch said.
Over his 40 years at McNicholas, Kirch has influenced his former students to become teachers at the school as well.
“I had Kirch in his second year here at McNicholas. The knowledge that man had even at that early stage in his career was immense!” said Mr. Sam Roflow, religion teacher and McNicholas Class of ’74. “The love and enthusiasm that he had for his subject matter was unbelievable, and it spread to those who had him as a teacher. He was an inspiration for me to become a teacher.”
In 1979, Kirch got a job with the State Department teaching at an American school in Bolivia. By the time they moved, Kirch and Carmen already had a two-year-old son and one-year-old daughter. While he and his family were in Bolivia, they survived three revolutions. It was during this time that he also contracted hepatitis and a parasite through the skin cells. This was why Kirch came back to Cincinnati—to have proper hospital care and to teach at McNicholas again.
“[Kirch was] always affable, always respectful of students, but always quick to find a connection worth teasing about or striking up a conversation. Kirch has not changed in character in 40 years. Often delivered in a (deceptively) conversational tone, Kirch’s encyclopedic knowledge of history was as well-developed then as it is now,” said Ms. Lizanne Ingram, Director of Academic Services and Enrollment and McNicholas Class of ’78. “It was great to have him as a teacher, which makes it all the more a privilege to know him as a colleague.”