Professor's Ties to USD Have Remained Strong

Professor John Swanke

Professor John Swanke taught at the University of San Diego for 25 years.

Philosophy Professor John Swanke started teaching at the College for Men in 1968 and says his department and the philosophy department in the College for Women were the last to merge when the two institutions, along with the School of Law, combined forces to become what is now the University of San Diego.

It took a meeting on the second floor of Serra Hall with then-Provost Sister Sally Furay instructing professors from both schools not to leave until they had come to an agreement. Finally, six hours later, even though debates over teaching styles, content and curriculum were still underway, Sister Furay opened the door and told them the merger was complete. The decision was made for them. Despite their differences, they were now one department.

"Art Hughes was a miracle worker for us," Professor Swanke says of the first president of the merged University of San Diego. "He was a finance expert, he was intelligent and he was well-liked by the faculty. Under his watch, the merger went very smoothly."

Professor Swanke taught at Alcalá Park from 1968 until 1993, when he retired. He wore a suit and tie every day; he used the courtesy titles Mr. and Ms. when speaking to his students; and he assigned regular term papers as well as book reports every other week.

He thought he was an easy grader. His students, however, thought otherwise.

"I didn't tolerate a lot of nonsense, but I tried to teach them well and I filled up a classroom every semester," he recalls. "But after 25 years, I was 66 years old and was ready to go on to other things."

Professor Swanke, however, always stayed connected to the University of San Diego. He established the Anne Catherine Swanke Memorial Scholarship Fund, named for his daughter, who would have graduated from USD in 1985 with a Bachelor of Arts in music.

"The scholarship can go to any student in the university, but most of the time it goes to a music major because my daughter was a musician," says Swanke, who established the fund in 1984, the year his daughter died.

Professor Swanke thought when he left USD that he'd never teach again. But six months into his retirement, he was contacted by the Missionaries of Charity, established by Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Administrators there asked him to teach the seminary students in Mexico. He worked for them another six years.

"For six years, I drove to Mexico," Swanke says. "I became personal friends with Mother Teresa. She was a remarkable woman. She radiated God and holiness. She was a lovely woman and I really loved her."

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