John Michael Finn, 63, a College of William and Mary physics department professor and Jefferson Lab user, passed away Jan. 31 due to a heart attack, according to the Feb. 1 Daily Press.
Known by many as Mike, Finn was an avid and passionate poet and served as the York/Poquoson Democratic Committee chair. At JLab he most recently served as one of the Q-weak Experiment's collaboration spokespersons.
Finn had been on the faculty of the W&M since 1985 arriving after receiving his Ph.D. in 1975 from Catholic University, and after postdoctoral positions at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Louisiana State University. While a physics graduate student, he was drafted into the U.S Army. He served for two years as an infantryman with the Forth Infantry Division, stationed in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, where he was awarded two U.S. Army Commendation Medals for meritorious service.
Over the years at W&M, Finn taught a wide variety of courses in the physics department, ranging from introductory undergraduate physics to graduate level courses. He supervised the dissertation research of eight Ph.D. students, and recently published a graduate-level textbook, "Classical Mechanics", Infinity Science Press. His research was in experimental nuclear physics, conducted mainly in recent years at Jefferson Lab, and previously at the MIT/Bates Lab, Los Alamos National Lab, CEA-Saclay (France) and the Naval Research Lab. He was a leader and co-spokesperson for two major experiments at Jefferson Lab, the HAPPEx experiment, a pioneering measurement which searched for strange quark effects in the proton, and Q-weak, which will test the Standard Model of particle physics. He was an author of over 90 scholarly papers on nuclear physics, as well as numerous presentations at national and international physics conferences.
His service to W&M College governance included membership in the Educational Policy committee and the Committee on Graduate Studies, and several physics department committees.
In addition to his academic publications in physics, he published two books of poetry, "Flashback: A Journey in Time" and "Butterfly Girl", both published by 1st Book Library, as well as "Ghost Tracks", a memoir of the Vietnam War, published by Royal Fireworks Press. He was also politically active, most recently serving as the chair of the York/Poquoson Democratic Party committee.
Finn leaves behind a wife, Kit, five children and two grandchildren.
The Visitation will be at 6 p.m. Sunday, Feb 8., at Bucktrout Funeral Home (4124 Ironbound Road) in Williamsburg, Va
The Funeral and Mass will be Monday, Feb. 9, at 3 p.m. at St. Olaf's Catholic Church (104 Norge Lane) in Norge, Va.
A reception will be held afterwards and directions will be provided.
The Finn Family asks that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to an education fund for his younger children and grandchildren that can be sent to 133 Little John Rd., Williamsburg, VA 23185.
Finn, a self-described "physicist by training and a poet by accident," was known by many for his energy, passion and insight. He was teaching a course at W&M this semester.
Finn's William and Mary website includes excerpts from some of his written works.
Submitted: Tuesday, February 3, 2009 - 2:00pm