John M. Dunn, president of Western Michigan University, earned an EdD in physical education from Brigham Young University in 1972. He is known internationally for his research and writing on the long-term health of people with disabilities.
Dunn has positive memories of BYU and Utah, including the accomplishment of placing third in the Deseret News Marathon. As a long-distance runner he appreciated the healthy living style promoted on campus. Despite the odds of being a BYU Catholic, he met and married Linda, a fellow BYU Catholic student, before leaving Provo.
Dunn taught at the University of Connecticut, then moved to Oregon State University, where he taught in and became chair of the Department of Exercise and Sport Science. He founded and directed the Special Physical and Motor Fitness Clinic, which still operates today. A turning point occurred in his career when he became associate provost, moving from teaching to administration.
Dunn also served on the Corvallis, Oregon, school board for 13 years, broadening his perspective as he became aware of the issues and concerns of parents and community members.
He recalled, “I came to a deeper understanding of human nature. I saw the need of individuals to be heard and the importance of administrators to provide an opportunity for them to be heard.”
From 1995 to 2002 he served as dean of the College of Health at the University of Utah before moving to Southern Illinois University, where he served as provost and vice chancellor before becoming interim chancellor. He was appointed president of WMU in 2007. Under his leadership, 24,000 students have had new opportunities opened to them, including affiliations with a law school and a medical school. Dunn is active in state and community efforts that promote economic development, serving on boards and engaging in efforts that focus on quality of life issues.
Dunn described his 40 years in education as an interesting, intriguing ride. Along the way he has encountered many memorable teachers, including legendary
BYU physical education professor Leona Holbrook.
“She was extremely well read,” he recalled. “She had a great ability to teach and encouraged her students to think in a larger context than the world at present.”
Another favorite professor was Dunn’s uncle, admired as being meticulous and always prepared. This uncle was a good listener who could grasp a student’s question and rephrase it so that everyone understood it, then give a clear, clean answer.
Dunn said, “The public doesn’t realize or appreciate how much time a teacher puts in—all the extras, the preparation, and the thoughtful lesson plans full of information. Like an attorney they ask, ‘How do I get students to stay on topic, what happens when they are off topic, how do I reroute the conversation?’ It’s hard work, but worth it.”