Chartwell resident and Severn School graduate John R. Quinn has been placed in one of the most prestigious and demanding positions at the U.S. Naval Academy: in command of more than half the academy's 4,500-member brigade of midshipmen.
"His rank as First Regimental commander means more than, say, student body vice president (the civilian equivalent) because it supports the whole structure, military as well as academic. He serves as an important liaison between the brigade and officers," said Naval Academy spokesman Carol Feldmann.
"I'm busy, but I enjoy the responsibility," said Quinn, who throughout an interview maintained a disarming, wide, deep-dimpled smile.
The three-letter lacrosse midfielder and national engineering honors society member was aware that the academy's selection committee was considering him for a command position, and requested that he be able to serve during the fall term.
Quinn, whose family moved to St. Andrews Street in 1983, was Severn School's class of 1987 valedictorian; a nine-letter member of the lacrosse, soccer and basketball teams, and the recipient of several awards for accomplishments in science, math and sports.
In his position as First Regimental commander, one of the five highest ranks held by undergraduates at the academy, Quinn, 21, oversees his own staff of five middies. They help him coordinate the three battalions, 18 companies and 2,250 midshipmen that make up the academy's First Regiment.
Along with passing down edicts from academy officers to the midshipmen and leading parades, Quinn also attends weekly "philosophy night" meetings with other ranking middies and helps form policies.
This semester has been especially volatile, as the academy has had to react to a barrage of criticism about sexual harassment and hazing. The issue can be traced back to a well-publicized incident last year in which a female middie was handcuffed to a urinal, taunted and photographed by male classmates.
Though he has broad new responsibilities to watch for and help train other midshipmen to be sensitive to harassment issues, Quinn does not belong to the honor board or the Administrative Conduct System, which have been criticized for their handling of the controversy.
Quinn said he is most proud of his role in expanding the liberties of midshipmen. This semester marks the first time in history that seniors at the academy have been allowed off campus until midnight one week night each week.
"We think seniors are responsible enough to decide when they have work they need to do and when they can take liberties," Quinn said.
The new policy was developed by Quinn and other commanding officers during a "stripers retreat" last summer. Commanding midshipmen are dubbed stripers because they wear bars signifying their rank on their collars.
Quinn's five bars are second only to the brigade commander's six.
The student administration Quinn belongs to also is pushing for more flexibility in the dress code, to allow some variety in the kinds of T-shirts middies can wear around the dorms.
His term of command will end at the beginning of the spring semester, when he will again be able to turn his extra-curricular attention to the Navy lacrosse team and attempt a third trip to the NCAA tournament in his four years.
After that, Quinn still is not certain about his plans. He has applied for a scholarship for a two-year program in Cambridge University in England.
The mechanical engineering major would like to spend his five-year military commitment working with the nuclear submarine fleet, which he considers the most technically interesting and challenging field in the Navy.
Then Quinn, whose father J. Thomas (Class of '62) and grandfather John (brigade commander, Class of '28) were both career officers who attended the Naval Academy, says he will "see how it goes."