KENOSHA — “I embrace this community,” said a smiling John R. Swallow after he was sworn in as Carthage College’s 23rd president Saturday.
Swallow, 47, has been serving as Carthage’s president since July after being unanimously elected by the Board of Trustees last May. He replaced Gregory S. Woodward, who left after five years to become president at his hometown college, the University of Hartford in Connecticut.
Swallow came to Carthage after working as an administrator at his alma mater, The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., for six years.
One year under his belt
Swallow is friendly, laughs easily, favors short sentences and even shorter meetings.
“We’re looking to enroll a lot of students who will change the world,” he told The Journal Times.
Enrolling students shouldn’t be a problem. Jeff Hamar, the first vice chair of the Carthage Board of Trustees, said that a record number of potential incoming freshmen had applied for the upcoming fall 2018 semester.
“We’re working to implement a career-building program that will reach every student,” Swallow said of his goals for his second year at Carthage.
Also on his plate is finding a new provost/academic officer, a role that has been vacant since February.
The inauguration was attended by about 150 people and delegates from more than 30 colleges and universities, including Yale, Loras, Butler, Marquette, Gateway and UW-Parkside.
In an address during the ceremony, Student Government President Ellena Ignacio said that she was surprised by Swallow’s informality when she saw the new president helping students move into their dorms last fall.
“That can’t be the president,” she remembered a classmate saying, “he’s not even wearing a suit.”
Swallow has been on the educational fast track almost since birth.
He surpassed third-graders in math as a kindergartener. By seventh grade, Swallow was enrolled in high school geometry. At the age of 15, Swallow started college at his alma mater. After graduating in 1989 with degrees in mathematics and English, he earned two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. in math at Yale.
From 1994 to 2012, he was a faculty member at Davidson College, a liberal arts institution in North Carolina with enrollment comparable to Carthage. He then returned to his alma mater as its provost and chief operating officer, despite having no previous experience in administration. Two years later, he added the title of executive vice president to his resume.
Among the duties he juggled as provost were grant applications, handling Title IX issues and expanding athletic programs.
“He is extremely well-qualified,” said Mabel DuPriest, an emeritus professor of English.
“He’s done a fantastic job so far,” math professor Mark Snavely added. “We’re excited to see where he takes us. He seems like a very steady hand.”
The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Huffington Post have published articles by Swallow advocating for higher education. He also wrote an abstract algebra textbook and has authored more than two dozen research articles in mathematics.
Swallow has been busy since coming to Wisconsin. He was elected vice chair of the Kenosha Area Business Alliance board of directors and is looking to expand Carthage’s impact and connectivity in southeastern Wisconsin.
“We’ve already seen John and (his wife) Cameron immersing themselves in our community,” Carthage Psychology Science Department Chair Leslie Cameron said, complimenting Swallow’s ability to wear many hats and calling him “a kindred spirit.”
He emphasized his moral responsibility as the leader of the college by referencing Racine’s H.F. Johnson Jr., who commissioned a film advocating for peace and understanding which premiered at the 1964-65 World’s Fair in New York.
Swallow called his job “an expedition of great magnitude … (involving) thousands of lives.” He then challenged himself, and his audience, with two rhetorical questions: “What does the world need? And what do our students need to have an impact in that world?”