What do boomerangs, business, law, and skydiving have in common? Shenandoah Professor of Business Law John Winn, JD, LLM! Dr. Winn is the subject of this week’s Friday Faculty Spotlight. Learn more about his career in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, as a professor, and as a boomerang collector and builder!
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How long have you been at Shenandoah?
I’ve taught at Shenandoah’s School of Business since retiring from the Army JAG Corps in 2005.
You served in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps for 20 years. How did you shift from practicing to teaching law at the Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center as well as the U.S. Military Academy?
In the early ’90s, I taught criminal law to (post-doctoral) Army judge advocate officers before returning to the “real Army” in places like Fort Rucker, Alabama, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina. When I heard of a teaching position at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York in 2000, I jumped at the chance to return to the classroom. At West Point, I taught constitutional law, business law, and national security law. Living and teaching at West Point while raising a young family with my wife, Anne (a career elementary school teacher herself), was the highlight of my military career. While at West Point, I also was an assistant coach of the West Point Cadet Parachute Team and the Combat Weapons (shooting) Team.
Teaching undergrads at West Point isn’t much different than teaching at SU. The classrooms are the same size and many of the lessons are very similar. The only major differences are that everyone wears green at West Point and skipping class is a criminal offense. (Lol)
Why did you then decide to shift again, to teaching business law at Shenandoah?
When I was eligible to retire from the Army in 2005, I wanted to continue teaching. When I visited SU in January 2005, the campus, local schools, and small-town environment seemed to be a perfect fit. I was also excited to be part of the then-upcoming AACSB candidacy under then-Dean Randy Boxx.
What kind of research are you currently engaged in?
Besides business law, I teach human resource management (HR) and healthcare law and compliance. Much of my current research focuses upon these topics. My two most recent publications concerned “Cannabis in the Workplace” and “Medical Volunteers During Pandemics, Disasters, and Other Emergencies.” My article on volunteers during pandemics was published in the middle of the lock-down period, so its timing was pretty good!
How does your military career influence the way you approach teaching?
Wow, that’s a good question. I would say that except for stressing professionalism and being on time, my Army career probably doesn’t impact what I do all that much. I do bring some Army management and leadership experience into the classroom, but inductive reasoning and critical thinking are my core learning goals.
What do you hope your students take away from your classes?
I hope to prepare students for a career in business by providing them enough familiarity with the legal system to avoid unnecessary problems. At a higher level, especially in the MBA program, students should be able to use the legal system and basic management principles to leverage their success. Although we have a lot of fun in my classes, I constantly stress the immediate relevance of everything in the syllabus.
You also have a unique business – a boomerang business. Can you tell us a bit more about Winnarang Boomerangs? When did you first use a boomerang, and why did you decide to start crafting your own? Where can people find your boomerangs?
I have been collecting boomerangs since 1980. I still have my first Wham-O boomerang (along with 300 or 400 more in my personal collection). I started making boomerangs for myself in 2012. I would say it took a couple years to learn the basic skills to be comfortable selling to others. I am happy to sell a few boomerangs online and to Incredible Flying Objects on Winchester’s Old Town Walking Mall. It’s definitely not about making money. At best I might break even, given how expensive materials and paint have become. There really aren’t that many people even throwing boomerangs anymore. But, I have pretty close “boomerang buddies” from literally all around the world. I do have a Facebook page called “Winnarang Boomerangs” if anyone wants to see some of my work.
Aside from building boomerangs, what do you do in your free time?
I jump out of perfectly good airplanes in New Market, Virginia, (I’ve been skydiving since I was 16 years old) and restore vintage Japanese motorcycles. I have five motorcycles in the garage right now but have owned as many as eight at the same time. I restored a motorcycle last winter only to keep from going batty during lockdown. If it’s not raining and the temperature is above freezing, I ride a motorcycle to work. Anne and I also like to read and cook, and we visit our 60-acre family “farm” near Martinsville, Virginia, at least every month.