John Goodwin was born and raised in Roger Mills County of Oklahoma. He was the Durham High School valedictorian in 1953, and enrolled at PAMC that fall. In 1956, Goodwin received his B.A. in history with minors in speech and english. While at PAMC, he was co-editor of the Collegian, was on the Plainsmen staff, and competed in speech and debate.
Dr. Goodwin earned his Ph.D. in agricultural economics from OSU in 1961 accepting employment as a corporate economist for Armour & Co. He left the business world to become a teacher at OSU in 1964 where he taught and conducted research in livestock marketing. Over the years, John would take breaks from education by working for the state in agriculture, but always returned to the university environment. After a successful stint as V-P for Agriculture at University of Arkansas, Goodwin returned to Goodwell in 1995 as President of OPSU. He retired from education after seven years as president, returning to Fayettville, Arkansas, with his life-long love and companion, Phoebe Jane.
The Goodwins have four children: Thomas, Laura, Clariss, and John. There are also four grandchildren; the oldest is six.