Occupation: I’m a psychiatrist, and I’m the founder and director of the Unity Project, a resiliency building program for children and teenagers. Currently, the Unity Project is in its second phase at Newtown High School. I’ve run trauma programs for the State Department in the Balkans, I’ve developed a program in New York City following 9/11, and have worked in New Orleans and Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina. The last few years I have been in Uganda, working with child soldiers.
Family: I’ve been married to Margo Woodall since July 2012. My stepsons are Cameron, a junior at Newtown High School, and Deselin, who is at UMass, Amherst.
Pets: We have no pets. I’d love one, but it’s all about allergies.
How long have you lived in Newtown? We have been here for about three years. I was living in Lunenburg, Mass., before that.
What do you like to do in your free time? It’s been a flat out kind of year. I’ve been traveling back and forth from Uganda the last two years. I’m a decent cook, though, and I like cooking. I’m expanding my horizons into bread now. I love to garden, and I’m a big time reader. I have a blog at johnwoodall.net, “The Resilient Life.”
What have you read recently? I’m reading a book now called What Is The What, The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng by Dave Eggers, about a Sudanese refugee.
Do you have a favorite travel destination? I used to go to Vieques, which is one of the three islands of Puerto Rico. There are absolutely pristine, untouched beaches there, that are undeveloped. It’s wonderful. I haven’t been back in a while, but I would love to return. I’m looking at the South Pacific to visit next. There is an island theme here.
What is the best thing about Newtown? I was part of he interfaith service on December 16, and seeing the spirit of respectful unity, reaching for the better and the effort to do it was amazing. I’m so proud of this town. We have to make sure that that spirit grows and continues.
What has been the greatest influence in your life? I’ve been a Baha’i for 40 years. It’s a religion that’s all about unity and seeing the best in each other, and getting rid of prejudices. I’m always thinking about how there is opportunity to see our common humanity in struggles or crises. Being Baha’i had an influence on my becoming a psychiatrist, and ultimately, to do the Unity Project.
Do you have a personal philosophy? It’s attributed to Aeschylus, the Greek playwright, but it is actually that of Edith Hamilton: “We’re here to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of the world.”
Do you have a guilty pleasure? I have to admit, I eat ice cream every night before bed, almost always Breyer’s vanilla — which is also the best ice cream for root beer floats! It has a higher ice to fat content.