Howard Swearer

Howard R. Swearer (March 13, 1932-October 19, 1991) was the sixth president of Carleton College, serving from 1970-1977, following the retirment of president Nason. He was succeeded by Robert Edwards.


Swearer was born on March 13, 1932 in Hutchinson, KS. His undergraduate work was at Princeton University, graduating in 1954. He earned a master’s and a Ph.D. in political science from Harvard, in 1956 and 1960, respectively. After receiving his doctorate, he became a political science professor at UCLA, teaching there from 1960 to 1967.[1] He left UCLA to work for Ford Foundation from 1967-1970, working in their International Division.[2]


Howard Swearer
President-elect Swearer and family, as seen on page 3 of the February 19, 1970 Carletonian.

Swearer served as Carleton’s president from 1970-1977, and was the first president to live in Nutting House. The Music and Drama Center, which had been in the planning stages since 1960, was finally dedicated during his administration, as was the new Seely G. Mudd Hall of Science. He also oversaw a successful capital campaign during this period.[3]

It was during the Swearer administration that Winter Break was extended from four to six weeks by moving the start date of fall term two weeks earlier. Due to the high fuel prices in 1974 with the OPEC embargo, Swearer and Treasurer Wright suggested the change might save fuel (not only would the college be largely unoccupied for a longer period during the colder months of November and December, but students who wished to visit home for Thanksgiving would not need to return to campus immediately afterward and then head home again a week or two later). Though students were at the time opposed to the change, their objections were overruled and it was put into effect for the 1974-1975 school year. However, a poll taken in 1975 found a high level of support for the change, and Carleton has had a six-week winter break ever since.[4]


President Swearer left Carleton in 1977 to become president of Brown University, where he served until December, 1988. During his tenure there, he led another successful capital campaign that increased several research grants and allowed for several deferred building projects to go forward.[1] In 1987, he formed what is now known as the Howard R. Swearer Center for Public Service at Brown.[5] Following his term as Brown’s president, he was appointed as the director of Brown’s Institute for International Studies. He later moved to Thompson, CT, where he died of cancer on October 19, 1991.[1]

Howard Swearer, as seen on page 3 of The Carletonian on February 19, 1970, in an interview with student Don Camp.
Howard Swearer, as seen on page 3 of The Carletonian on February 19, 1970, in an interview with student Don Camp.


President Swearer’s son, Nick, built Iggy, a 40-foot long iron sculpture of an iguana that stands in front of the Science Museum of Minnesota, when he was a high school student in Northfield. At one point during construction, Iggy was stolen from the Swearers’ driveway and placed on a bridge on campus.[6]


↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 Mitchell, Martha. “Swearer, Howard R.”. Encyclopedia Brunoniana. 1993.
↑ Ford Foundation. Ford Foundation Annual Report 1968. Ford Foundation. 1968.
↑ Hardis, Joe. “History of the President’s Office”. Carleton College Office of the President. 2005.
↑ Hillemann, Eric. Winter Break. From the Cobwebs conference on Caucus (NetID required). April 21, 1998.
↑ Brown University. “About the Swearer Center”. Swearer Center for Public Service. 2000.
↑ Thueson, Matthew R. Iggy the Iguana. From Cobwebs, quoting the article “The Lizard King” by Ben Chanco in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, August 12, 1999.

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