Even Emily Post, the doyenne of social mores, knew that thank-you notes are more than just good manners. Their absence in our modern world not only is a social gaffe – it’s a real loss. For Gilmour alum John Kralik ’73, thank-you notes became a lifeline that pulled him from the desperation of divorce, distance from his children and an impending trial that threatened to derail his legal career but instead led him on a journey of gratitude. Today Kralik is a Superior Court judge for the County of Los Angeles and hears criminal and civil cases. He talks about how his life turned around in his 2010 memoir, “365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life.”
During a walk in the California hills on New Year’s Day 2008, Kralik came up with a plan to make life more tolerable by being grateful for what he had instead of focusing on what he didn’t have. Each day throughout the year, the attorney sent handwritten thank-you notes to loved ones, friends, foes, business associates, store clerks, doctors, neighbors and others who had shown him kindness in some way. He gained a sense of peace, companionship and a stronger financial base. As a result, Kralik discovered that “Until you learn to be grateful for the things you have, you will not receive the things that you want.”
Kralik attended Gilmour from 1969 to 1972 and finished high school in three years by doubling up on courses and taking the required senior courses during free periods. Looking back, he wonders why he was in such a rush. “I lost what I have always viewed as a precious year at Gilmour,” he says. “Looking back now, I realize I had nothing better to save it for.”
Kralik recalls a beloved teacher and basketball coach Brother Gerontius McCarthy, C.S.C., who died his freshman year. “His death left us reeling,” he says, and taught him the “impermanence of life.” Brother Thomas Maddix, C.S.C., coached him in speech and debate. Kralik and classmate Dave Schaumberg teamed to debate issues. “My experience on the debate team, my first burst through painful shyness, gave me the confidence to attempt law school,” Kralik says. Brother Thomas stressed the importance of outlining an argument, he notes, “a skill I would later use in law school, and in writing every significant legal brief of my life.”
The judge earned his baccalaureate and law degrees from the University of Michigan. After law school, the Gilmour graduate joined the Wall Street law firm Hughes, Hubbard & Reed and became a partner in 1988. He also was an in-house attorney for the Atlantic Richfield Company, known as ARCO, and formed his own law firm Kralik & Jacobs in Pasadena, Calif. He has three children – Johnny, 30, Josh, 26, and Katie, 11.
In his spare time, Kralik hikes and runs marathons for charities and is learning to dance. After his book was released, he connected with a few friends from Gilmour who found him on Facebook. Gilmour classmate Larry Weber, who has written seven books, encouraged Kralik in his writing and provided a blurb for his book. Reflecting on his days at Gilmour, Kralik says, “You will never find it so easy to make friends, or to be sure that your friends are really your friends.”