Donald Swanson ’55 Inducted 2012


Donald   Swanson

Gustavus Adolphus College has never officially recognized a "Mister Gustavus," but if they did, Don "Swannie" Swanson would have been one of the first names considered by those who have been around the College for the last 50 years. A Minneapolis, Minn. native, Swannie came to St. Peter in the fall of 1951 to become a teacher and play football, and what began innocently grew into a full-fledged love affair with the "College on the Hill" that would last until cancer claimed his life in the fall of 2009.

A four-year letterwinner as an offensive lineman for the legendary Golden Gustie football teams of the early '50s, Swannie was a member of Gustavus teams that won four consecutive Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) titles (1951 through 1954), compiling a record of 28- 5-1 overall and 23-1 in league play. A tenacious competitor, Swanson was described by his coach, mentor, and friend Lloyd "Holly" Hollingsworthas one of the smartest players he ever coached. The camaraderie Swannie developed with his teammates on the gridiron inspired him to encourage young men to pursue their academic and athletic dreams at Gustavus for the next 50 years. A tireless promoter of the College and its football program, Swanson persuaded hundreds of young men to attend Gustavus and many of them went on to play significant roles for the Golden Gusties — including his son, Scott, in the mid-'80s. In addition, Swannie used his connections as a high school football coach and athletics director to help Gustavus players find coaching positions throughout the state after they graduated. He also founded the Gustie Football 50-Year Club, a group of former players who had donned the Black and Gold more than 50 years ago.

In May of 2004, Swanson was honored by Gustavus with a Distinguished Alumni Citation in Education, one of the highest honors awarded by the College. A science and physical education teacher at Patrick Henry High School for nearly 30 years, Swanson was also a successful coach and athletics director. In addition, Swannie served as the president of the Minneapolis Coaches Association and the Minnesota State Football Coaches Association (MFCA). He founded the MFCA Coach of the Year Clinic and created the MFCA All-Star Football Camp. The MFCA Statewide Coach of the Year Award was named after Swanson in 2010.

Swanson, who succumbed to cancer on September 15, 2009, is survived by his wife, Barbara, his son, Scott '85, and his daughter, Leslie.