Campus Pastor, Director of College Relations, Dean of Campus Ministries, 1966-1999
(This series of Notable Faculty profiles was written in celebration Augustana's sesquicentennial in 2009.)
Richard Swanson was born Nov. 22, 1932, in DeKalb, Ill., and grew up in the nearby farming community of Sycamore. As a child during the Depression, Swanson often worked three or four jobs simultaneously — while still in grade school he swept a bank before school, worked in DeKalb corn fields after school, and swept a department store after dinner, in addition to delivering his Swedish grandmother's bread by bicycle around DeKalb County on weekends.
Swanson graduated from Augustana College in 1954. He married Lorian Sundelius, also a 1954 Augustana graduate; they had three children. After graduating from college, Swanson attended the Augustana Theological Seminary; he graduated and was ordained in 1958.
After being ordained, Swanson served as a mission pastor, starting the congregation of St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Itasca, Ill. During this time he was a member of the Augustana Alumni Association and the Augustana Board of Directors. Swanson returned to Augustana in 1966 as pastor of the newly formed Augustana Campus Church. In 1983 he was named director of college relations, a job which included Augustana's alumni relations programs and its relationship with the Lutheran Church of America.
Swanson became the campus's first dean of ministries in 1987, overseeing all campus ministries programs and the relationship between Augustana and the then newly formed Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Swanson retired from Augustana in 1999.
In addition to his activities on campus, Swanson was a member of the board of directors of the Rock Island County Council on Addictions and of the House of Prayer in Rock Island. He helped establish the Quad Cities Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance Committee, which continues to sponsor one of the oldest interfaith Yom HaShoah observances in the nation. The committee presented Swanson with its "Hope for Humanity" Award in 1998. He was also active in the Augustana Heritage Association and was its first treasurer. Swanson was an avid long-distance walker and cyclist.
In 2002 the Richard A. Swanson Chair of Social Thought was established in his honor. After his death in 2005, the path near the Slough was renamed the Swanie Slough Path in his memory.