Tom Karlya (B.A. ’81)
What was your favorite class, professor, or fondest memory of Hofstra?
I was very fond of Dr. Richard Mason, who not only was a beloved teacher, but he also directed quite a few shows I acted in, including Summer of the 17th Doll, which won the American College Theater Festival in 1979. My fondest memories are of everyone involved in that show. A day never goes by that I do not think of each of them.
I also have the fondest memories of working with the Spectrum Players. I was the executive producer at a time when it needed a jump-start. We created the Francis Ford Coppola Award, which I am proud to say is still given out and the plaque still adorns the John Cranford Adams Playhouse wall.
What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned there?
I immediately began work in all facets of theater, although performance was my love. I learned that no matter what happens in life, it is important keep at it. Art is a love and a passion; it is not a job.
What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
I am now involved in the diabetes community, as two of my children have become diagnosed and battle the disease every day. I am vice president of the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation. The diabetes community knows me as “Diabetes Dad,” my pen name for my writings and lectures. My passion is to find a cure. Every now and again, I still act and I will be appearing in the new film Not for Nothing in 2012.
What advice would you give current Hofstra students?
Absorb everything you can, including the friendships you form. You have no idea how much Hofstra means to you until you leave. I loved every single minute I was there and am so very proud to say I am a Hofstra graduate. Enjoy it. Enjoy it. Enjoy it.
In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
How has your degree helped you?
We were always taught to stay focused and give everything you do your all. When my children were diagnosed and I knew I had to change my life to be involved with diabetes, I gave it my all. Life has a way of rewarding that passion. It was in the diabetes field that I was honored with an Emmy Award nomination for a public service award I created. My degree was in the arts; I learned to respect the arts, and the arts would respect me. Do not take your education so lightly at Hofstra; it will set the very foundation for the rest of your life.
Do you have a favorite quote or saying that has kept you motivated through the years?
Dr. Mason always wanted to write a book that he would call “The Walk Across the Stage.” He emphasized the importance of understanding the place we were in at the moment we were performing. I quickly learned that his walk across the stage was never a book to be written; it was a philosophy of life for us to learn, and I embraced it. I love him for teaching us that lesson. Embrace life, now.
How has your job influenced your mentality as a person?
Our lives are who we are. My work represents my passion in life to cure my children, and this makes my career as exhilarating now as when I started on this journey. Every day is a new day and a new chance to make a difference. Hofstra taught me that, and it has stayed with me forever.
Tom Karlya (B.A. ’81) has been active in diabetes charities and causes since his daughter Kaitlyn was diagnosed in 1992 at the age of two. His son Rob was also diagnosed in March of 2009, at the age of 13. Tom has lectured across the country and chaired many panels about being “Diabetes Dad,” his pen name used virtually everywhere. Over the years he has been featured or quoted in numerous newspapers, such as Newsday, USA Today, and The Los Angeles Times, to name a few. Tom has also been published in periodicals, such as Time and Parents Guide Weekly.
As a diabetes advocate, Tom has been introduced to the New York State legislature, has testified in Washington, D.C., and appeared at diabetes-related events at the United Nations. He also has served as a panelist or keynote speaker at numerous events.
He has written and/or produced public service announcements for diabetes causes featuring celebrities such as Ray Romano, Sugar Ray Leonard, Doris Roberts, Nicole Johnson [Miss America (1999) and co-host of dLifeTV], Sandra Oh, Patti LaBelle, Peter Boyle, Bret Michaels, and Jim Turner. Tom was awarded the prestigious Jeff Hitchcock Distinguish Service Award from Children with Diabetes, Inc. in 2008, “Man of the Year” by the Long Island Advertising Club, and Diabetes Advocate of the Year by the American Association of Diabetes Educators. As producer of dLifeTV he was nominated for an Emmy Award, and 13 Telly (former Cable Ace) Awards, four nominations and a win for The Best in Medical Media. He also received numerous commendations, including a congratulations from the president of the United States for his work during the Hurricane Katrina aftermath where he was instrumental in organizing relief efforts for more than 10,000 people with diabetes. He was also the recipient of a George M. Estabrook Distinguished Service Award from Hofstra University for his work in diabetes and television.
As an actor for 12 years, he starred in a New York City production of Tony n’ Tina's Wedding (working with the original New York Company) and also Summer of the 17th Doll (at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.), and his film lbs., was which screened at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival. Tom also has appeared in Unsolved Mysteries, Spin City, The Cosby Show, NYPD Blue, Law and Order, America's Most Wanted, Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, and other shows as well as numerous commercials.
Tom is currently vice president of the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation in Florida. He resides on Long Island.