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John Quinn, who served as chancellor of UT Knoxville from 1989 to 1992, passed away Monday, October 8. Quinn, a faculty member in the Department of Physics, retired from UT in 2015 after 26 years at the university. He was named chancellor emeritus upon his retirement.

“Dr. Quinn was a renowned physicist and dedicated campus leader,” said Interim Chancellor Wayne Davis.” His love for the University of Tennessee and his legacy as a researcher and educator makes us proud to call him part of the Volunteer family. On behalf of the university, I want to express our heartfelt condolences to his family.”

John Quinn
John Quinn

“We are deeply saddened by John’s passing,” according to a statement from the Department of Physics. “He was a distinguished administrator over decades in higher education as well as a titan in condensed matter physics theory. But he also was a true gentleman with a big heart and was liked and admired by so many people around him. We will miss him dearly.”


Quinn was internationally recognized for helping create the research specialty of two-dimensional electronic systems.

He 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.

Quinn 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 until 1989, when he was selected as chancellor of UT Knoxville.

In 1992, Quinn returned to the physics faculty full time as the Willis Lincoln Chair of Excellence.

Services will be held at a later date.