Tom Quinn

Getting to Know the Heart of Tom Quinn

Worldly, wise, and a journeyman, Tom Quinn has seen many things, worn many hats, and has finally found his perfect fit as husband, father, and teacher through the art of living a conscientious, mindful, and present life.

By: Annice Moses, Council for Inclusion and Community member

Tom is impossible to miss. Standing 6’5” and often rocking a silver man-bun, (I call it a “mun” -- my kids say that’s not a thing), it’s undeniable that Tom’s physical presence looms large. Tom also has a big personality – his voice is deep, his hands come alive when he talks and his booming laugh is hearty and contagious. He is also thoughtful, an appreciator of the quiet and beauty in nature and a fervent fan of poetry. Tom is the quintessential combination of a gentle giant and the age-old adage, don’t judge a book by its cover. 

Tom’s dad was raised in the city and his mom was from River Forest. They were set up by Tom’s grandmother at a wedding shower. “My grandmother - who was a little firecracker Irish woman - basically told my dad, ‘You’re getting old. You need to get married.’” Tom’s parents obliged her within a year, and the following year Tom’s oldest brother was born. They moved to California where Tom’s dad was working as an electrical engineer on a project at an Air Force lab in the middle of the desert. When the project ended, Tom’s parents moved back to Illinois, settling in Wilmette where his dad continued his career in electronics and his mom, who adored children, taught preschool and later, with a good friend, developed a supplemental enrichment program for the Wilmette Park District. 

Hailing from a family of five boys, Tom’s house was all about sports - baseball, basketball, football, you name it. Throughout high school at New Trier, Tom played basketball and football, and while sports were Tom’s primary focus, he wasn’t a one trick pony. He also liked science and math and enjoyed the “social life” at New Trier. Tom was recruited to play football by several universities, but his dad – who had played football as well – was not a fan of that route. He really wanted Tom to focus on academics at college. After much debate, Tom decided to let go of football and enrolled at the University of Illinois.

With football on the back burner, Tom had to reevaluate who he was in the world, but more immediately he had to decide on a college major. It was not a straight line. Tom went from ecology to geophysics to finally landing in the mechanical engineering department. He became interested in computer automation and robotics. Tom also discovered and excelled at the sport of rugby and joined a fraternity, rounding out a nice balance for himself with his academics, sports, and friends. 

As graduation neared, Tom contemplated playing rugby overseas, but his dream was cut short by a motorcycle accident. “I wasn’t wearing a helmet. Angels must have been watching over me.”  Tom recovered from his serious injuries and completed his engineering degree from bed. With plenty of time to think, Tom decided to sideline rugby for the moment and pursue a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering.

In graduate school, Tom conducted research and was a teacher’s assistant for a robotics and industrial automation course. Tom absolutely loved the role of being an instructor. “Right away, it was clear what a significant influence it had on me, even beyond anything I was learning in my actual classes.” (It was a sign of things to come!) After completing his master’s thesis, Tom graduated and started a sales & marketing job at IBM. He enjoyed the transition to living in Chicago and learning to navigate the corporate path. Tom also returned to the rugby pitch and had many years with the Chicago Lions Rugby Club.

During this time, Tom’s brother and sister-in-law had just returned from a yearlong trip around the world. They invited Tom to take a look-see at their trip slide show. As images of China, Tibet, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, India and Nepal clicked through, Tom’s Irish wanderlust kicked in. After four years at IBM, Tom decided to take a leave of absence and went on his own world tour, backpacking for ten months through Asia and Europe.

When Tom returned to the States, he was 29 years old. Although he was hesitant to return to the corporate world, IBM wanted him back. A month into his old job, Tom knew he’d made a terrible decision: his heart wasn’t in it anymore. He lasted less than a year before he resigned. Soon Tom was back on the travelling circuit heading to Turkey and then back to the Indian Himalaya. After a mountain trek was cancelled due to an early snowstorm, Tom heard about a Tibetan meditation course for westerners in Dharamshala -- the Dalai Lama’s home in India.

It was here that he spotted a fellow student doing the sun salutations of yoga. Tom had done a little yoga after his biking accident and in Chicago while playing rugby, but this flowing sequence really captured Tom’s attention. Tom started taking daily yoga classes, and after seeing a senior student of the Ashtanga Vinyasa method practicing, he travelled up to Mysore for a month of intense practice before returning to the states. It was an incredible experience.

For the next 15 months Tom practiced with senior teachers in California and Colorado, then returning to India for 6 months to continue his Ashtanga practice with Pattabhi Jois and studying pranayama with Dr. Shankar Narayana.

In 1997, Tom met his wife Jessica through a mutual friend who ran a yoga studio. After travelling the world and seeing so much, how did Tom know Jessica was his person? “It was an instant connection.” Their instantaneous connection was derailed by an almost equally immediate departure, as Jessica had to leave to tour with her professional dance troupe. They reunited a year later in Chicago and that was the start of a whole new life that would eventually include their three children (Galen, Soleia and Serena) and Tom teaching yoga full time. In 2002, Tom opened Yogaview with Quinn Kearney. Yogaview thrived offering yoga classes, workshops and teacher training programs. In 2011, they expanded and took on a second major location in Wilmette. “It was an exciting time both on the home front and in the Chicago yoga scene.” Over time, the studios thrived and grew to offer more than 100 classes per week, hosting workshops from teachers all over the world. Yogaview became the premier yoga studio in the Midwest and the place to go for yoga teacher trainings.    

Now, at the tail end of 2021 in the thick of navigating COVID, mask mandates and limited class numbers, this moment in time feels vastly different. “It’s been devastating. We were shut down for a year. Sixty percent of our business disappeared overnight. We immediately transitioned what we could to an online format, but the loss of our base business was significant. We are a small business in a niche market with some substantial fixed costs. On one hand, we were really fortunate with our client loyalty online and now all the people coming back in person to the studio. On the other hand, things have really diminished, but we’re making it through and we’re weathering the storm. We really appreciate everyone who’s making the effort to support Yogaview and all local, independent businesses. These are challenging days, but our community is strong, and we will survive.”  

I absolutely believe Tom, clearly, he’s made of formidable stuff, but I still must inquire; Would the Yogi survive a Zombie apocalypse? “I don’t even know what that is, but I’d say yes. I can survive anything, that’s my Irish grit nature. I’d do my best.”

And what celebrity wins the fawning of a Zen Master’s crush? “The first person that comes to mind is Rihanna… but there are many!” Namaste.