Obituary: Donald Warren Winne
Donald Warren Winne passed away peacefully surrounded by his family on October 19, 2011 in Carson City, Nevada. Don was born on June 28, 1930 to Warren and Ellen in Flint, Michigan. His early childhood years were spent with his beloved sister Fern helping out in the family grocery store during the Great Depression. These experiences helped to shape philosophies that guided his life.
Don attended Olivet Nazarene College in Kankakee, Illinois from 1949 to 1953, graduating with degrees in Business Administration and Social Sciences. It was there that he met and courted the “woman of his dreams” and everlasting love of his life, Doris, and they married on December 20, 1951. During their 60 years together, they had four children, Dianne, Debbie, Don Jr., and David. With spouses Sandy, Hi, Paula, and Andrea their grandchildren are Jenae, Grant, Jason, Lauren, and Lili Don. Don and Doris cherished their time with family, and the traditions and love they so generously gave will endure.
As Don described it, as soon as he picked up a hammer, he began building. This passion for constructing items from wood lasted his entire life, from building homes and making furniture in his late teens and early 20’s to building two cabins with surplus and recycled wood at his beloved Lake Tahoe. He periodically took his skills on the road, assisting with construction projects in Guatemala, one a clinic supported and later blessed by Mother Teresa. Meeting her was one of the spiritual highlights of his life.
Don’s thirst for adventure by journeying into the unknown began when he left home and hitch-hiked through the southern U.S. during his Senior year in high school. His curiosity for people, places, and philosophies was limitless. He traveled extensively into his 80’s, visiting every inhabited continent. He actively sought out local people to get a feel for their cultural values and way of life.
One of Don’s philosophies of life was “Be ever mindful of the needs of others.” This keen interest in helping people translated to a lifelong record of public service. With Doris working as a teacher, Don attended the University of Illinois School of Law, graduating with a Juris Doctorate in 1955. He immediately enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps where he served as a First Lieutenant and Legal Officer. In 1958, he joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation and served as a Special Agent in Louisiana, working a variety of cases including civil rights abuses. The F.B.I. sent him to Las Vegas, Nevada in 1960. In 1961, U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy assigned him to a task force to investigate Organized Crime in Nevada. During an investigation in Northern Nevada Don first saw Lake Tahoe, and its stunning beauty became an enduring place of peace and tranquility for him. For meritorious service, Don was promoted to a Bureau Supervisor in Washington D.C. where he became a ghost-writer for J. Edgar Hoover.
After moving the family many times and not wishing to leave Nevada again, Don quit the F.B.I., continuing his public service with the Nevada Gaming Control Board. After a brief period in Las Vegas with the private law firm of Denton, Monsey, Winne, and Rogers, Don re-entered public service to work as a Deputy Attorney General in the Gaming Division from 1965 to 1969. He accepted one final assignment with the Federal government as a trial attorney in the Organized Crime and Racketeering section for the U.S. Attorney General’s Office in Los Angeles. Yearning for a return to Nevada and especially Lake Tahoe, the family moved back to Carson City in late 1970. This was the 17th and final move for the family. He worked as General Counsel for the Nevada Insurance Division, earning the nickname “White Knight” for his unflinching ethics and crusading tactics.
With his vast and varied experiences, Don became a professor at the University of the Nevada Reno and discovered his most gratifying and longest lasting career. From 1973 to 2010, Don taught classes within the College of Business focusing on the Legal Environment and Ethics. During his tenure, he served as a Department Chair, an Associate Dean, and Acting Dean of the College. He was influential during the fledgling years of the Elko M.B.A. program, and the first 15 graduates recognized him as its “Heart and Soul.”
Don frequently quoted: “Everyone has a story to tell. It’s up to us to take the time to listen.” He used this philosophy to develop a teaching style promoting student involvement and reflection. He never shied away from being a mentor. Loved, admired and respected by students, his unique ability and passion to listen to people of diverse backgrounds and cultures was instrumental in molding a class culture that encouraged positive leadership. Don pushed his students to set high individual goals, prepare for future challenges, and to always be mindful of the needs of others. These distinctive attributes contributed to his being named Outstanding Teacher of the University in 1982; receiving the BJ Fuller Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2008; and being honored for Graduate Faculty Excellence in Teaching after his final semester in 2010.
Don was a hard working, determined, and inspirational spiritual leader who was deeply involved in Christian affairs both in his local church and beyond. Over the years, he served as president of the Nevada Council of Churches, Sunday School teacher and superintendent, Trustee, and Lay Leader. He was the only Nevadan elected to serve as a delegate to the Uniting Conference of The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren in 1968, creating the United Methodist Church. He served for many years as delegate for the United Methodist Annual, Jurisdictional, and General Conferences. Kiwanis International honored him as the Most Outstanding Christian Layman of the Year in 1967.
Don often said: “I attend other religious services at various times during the year because you never know, one of them might be right.” Although his faith was unwavering, Don believed in elements of many faiths and became one of the founding members of A Christian Ministry in the National Parks. This inter-denominational organization still provides for the spiritual faith and support of many visitors and employees within the National Park System. For him, there was nothing better than spiritual faith incorporating the beauty of the natural world. Nature’s gems awed him, and the crown jewel was Lake Tahoe. His spirit was refreshed by sitting quietly by the shore, swimming in the frigid water, or sailing over the deep blue.
Don believed the process to achieve a more loving and spiritual life was an individual one that centered on improving the human condition. Don touched thousands of lives throughout his life due to an amazing ability to listen, show empathy, and then take action to help. He tirelessly worked on ways to be a better person, and did not preach high platitudes, but modeled them. He received the California/Nevada region’s United Methodist Bishop’s Award in 2003, the highest recognition given to those non-clergy who ‘live as a disciple engaged in transforming the world.’ He accepted this honor humbly after years of actively helping to make his corner of the world a better place.
His family will miss the ever smiling, friendly, and twinkling eyes, and beautiful smiles. He remains forever etched in our hearts with his warmth, energy, and willingness to help anyone in need. He was the best husband, father, and grandfather they could ever have.
For those touched by his kindness, in lieu of flowers, please honor his legacy by sending donations to the “Don Winne Inspirational Student Scholarship.” Gifts can be made to the University of Nevada, Reno Foundation, Mail Stop 0162, Reno, Nevada 89557. Please write the words ‘Don Winne Scholarship’ on the memo line.
Please remember Don by “Keeping ever mindful of the needs of others.” Perform an act of love or kindness for anyone in need and do it with friendly eyes, a smiling face, and joy in your heart. This is how he lived his life. This is the legacy of Don Winne.
There will be a Celebration of Don’s life at 2:00 PM November 6, 2011 at the First United Methodist Church, corner of Division and Musser Streets in Carson City, Nevada. There will also be a Celebration held at the Ansari Business Building, room 106 on the University of Nevada, Reno campus from 2:30 to 4:00 PM on November 8, 2011.