Professor in coma after cardiac arrest

Don Punchatz, an adjunct graphic design professor and nationally renowned illustrator, remains in a coma at the Medical Center of Arlington after suffering cardiac arrest during fall break.

Punchatz fell while getting out of bed at his home Oct. 11, said Lewis Glaser, associate professor of graphic design. Punchatz experienced cardiac arrest, but it is unclear whether his heart stopped before or after the fall, Glaser said.

“Punchatz is the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back,” Glaser said, adding that Punchatz is a humble man. “On the other hand, he has a national reputation as an illustrator and is kind of described as having a rock star quality.”

Punchatz is well known for designing the “Doom” video game package art and logo as well as artwork for Time Magazine, Newsweek, Esquire and other publications.

Students in Punchatz’s illustration class were surprised when their professor did not come to class two weeks ago, said Joseph Hoff, a junior graphic design major. Hoff said Punchatz’s patience and consideration for his students was apparent from his first class with him.

After enjoying Punchatz’s illustration class last year, Cameron Jones, a sophomore graphic design major, took his class again this fall. Jones said Punchatz always encouraged students to reach new heights.

Charles Varner, an alumnus and apprentice to Punchatz in the ’70s, said he has known Punchatz for 23 years and took one of Punchatz’s first classes at the university. Varner said he took a part-time job with him at his Sketch Pad Studio when he was still student.

“(Working at the Sketch Pad Studio) really projected my career forward by many years,” Varner said. “I was able to go freelance at age 22 because of working with him.”

Varner took over Punchatz’s illustration class. Varner said the students were upset and shocked when they first heard the news, but overall they have kept a positive attitude.

Paula Monthie, an administrative assistant at the School of Art, said everyone who knew Punchatz loved him and that he made everyone feel special.

“He was here (at the university) for 39 years,” Monthie said. “He has given so much to the art world, and he is just irreplaceable.”

Punchatz does not have medical insurance. Family and friends are taking donations to help the Punchatz’s family pay for medical expenses.

Punchatz’s family was not available for comment Wednesday.