A West Virginia University postdoctoral fellow whose life was changed by the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech is being recognized by the White House for his efforts to reduce gun violence.

John Woods and eight other grassroots leaders from around the country will gather in Washington, D.C., on Thursday (April 3) as the White House honors Champions of Change for Gun Violence Prevention. The event will be streamed live at www.whitehouse.gov/live at 10 a.m.

Currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, Dr. Woods graduated from Virginia Tech in May 2007 just weeks after the worst mass shooting in American history. For Woods, the campus tragedy was very personal — and life-changing. “I lost Maxine Turner, the girl I loved,” he said.

After graduation, he moved to Texas to start a doctoral program at the University of Texas at Austin. It wasn’t long before he joined the fight to stop gun violence.

“My involvement with the gun violence prevention movement began when Texas lawmakers started discussing how to ‘prevent another Virginia Tech,’” Woods said. “They argued that was best accomplished by forcing colleges to allow guns in classrooms — an ideological agenda that had nothing to do with campus safety.”

He and fellow Texas violence prevention advocates successfully organized against the “campus carry” bills in three consecutive legislative sessions and several special sessions, despite a majority of Texas lawmakers registering as sponsors of the legislation.

In the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, Woods helped found Texas Gun Sense, a state-focused educational charity that promotes a fact-based dialogue on gun policy. In its first eighteen months, Texas Gun Sense has worked to educate lawmakers and the public on universal background checks as they would apply to Texas.

“The work Texas Gun Sense does has national impact, and on everyone’s behalf, I thank the White House for the recognition,” said Woods, who now serves on the organization’s advisory board.

At WVU, Woods is a postdoctoral fellow at the Applied Space Exploration Laboratory and the West Virginia Robotic Technology Center.

The White House created the Champions of Change program to feature individuals doing extraordinary things to empower, inspire and support members of their communities. To learn more about the White House Champions of Change program and nominate a Champion, visit www.whitehouse.gov/champions.



CONTACT: Mary Dillon, Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4086, Mary.Dillon@mail.wvu.edu

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