Retired Physics Professor John Quinn Named Chancellor Emeritus

Physics Professor John Quinn, who served as chancellor of UT from 1989 to 1992 under then-president Lamar Alexander, has been named chancellor emeritus.

Quinn, eighty, recently retired after a fifty-seven-year career in academics, twenty-six years of which were spent at UT.

quinn-johnEmeritus status is granted to recognize retiring faculty members and administrators for distinguished service to the university over an extended period of time. Other former Knoxville chancellors given the honor include Jack Reese, who served from 1973 to 1989, and William Snyder, who served from 1992 to 1999;

“I’m delighted to be given the title chancellor emeritus,” Quinn said. “Nearly half of my career has been spent at the University of Tennessee. I was pleased to serve the university as chancellor, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my many years teaching doing research with wonderful colleagues in the physics department. Although I’m retiring, I will always be a Tennessee Volunteer.”

Despite the many titles he held during his career, Quinn has always said his first love is physics. A theorectical physicist, Quinn is internationally recognized as one of the researchers who helped create a research specialty in condensed matter physics known as two-dimensional electronic systems.

Quinn earned a bachelor’s degree in physics at St. John’s University in 1954 and then went on to earn his doctorate in physics in 1958 at the University of Maryland. He held a postdoctoral position there from 1958 to 1959.

He worked at RCA Laboratories and held visiting professorships at the University of Pennsylvania and Purdue University before joining the physics faculty at Brown University in 1965. At Brown, he served as dean of faculty from 1985 to 1989.

In 1989, just as Quinn was preparing to return to life as a professor, he was recruited by the search committee at UT to apply for the chancellor job.

“I didn’t know much about the University of Tennessee except their record in football,” he said.

Quinn talked with Alexander and visited campus and was offered the job.

He accepted the challenge of leading the university, but said from the start that he didn’t want to be a career administrator; he loved physics, teaching, and research too much.

In 1992, after Alexander had gone on to be former president George Bush’s Secretary of Education and Joe Johnson had taken over as UT president, Quinn returned to the physics faculty full time as the Willis Lincoln Chair of Excellence.

In 2012, Quinn received a Distinguished Alumnus Award from the College of Computer, Math and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland.



Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,