In Memoriam: Dr. Louis J. Swift

Louis J. Swift, an emeritus professor of Classics in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages, Literatures, and Cultures (MCLLC), passed away on Saturday, January 30, 2021.

Lou became a Roman Catholic seminarian at the age of fourteen and went on to receive degrees from Saint Mary’s University in Baltimore and Gregorian University in Rome. He left the seminary before ordination and earned his Ph.D. in Classics from John’s Hopkins University in 1963. He began his career at SUNY Buffalo and joined UK’s faculty as the Chair of the Department of Classics in 1970. His research interests focused on the study of early Christianity and the relationship between religion and politics in America. He was a founding member of the North American Patristics Society.

In addition to his teaching duties at UK, Lou also served as the Associate Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs from 1996-1998, the Dean of Undergraduate Studies from 1990-1999, and the Director of the University Studies Program from 1986-1999. In 2012, he was inducted into UK’s Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame. He leaves a legacy of intellectual curiosity, creative teaching, and rigorous scholarship--the fundamental qualities of academic life. Dr. Swift's obituary can be found here

Below are tributes from those who knew him. 

The first time I met Professor Louis Swift was during my UK job interview many, many years ago. At the time, he was the Dean of Undergraduate Studies and, during my conversation with him, he filled me in on the exciting teaching and scholarship going on around the university and the College of Arts and Sciences. My immediate impression of Lou was that he was perfectly suited to that job because he was so clearly passionate about our UK students and the fantastic opportunities afforded them by the courses and programs created and led by our faculty. He was warm and friendly and generous, as he always was, and his enthusiasm about UK was contagious. My favorite story about Lou is that when the WT Young Library opened in the late 1990s, he was given the task, as undergraduate dean, of naming the coffee shop that would occupy, and still occupies today, along with Starbucks, the ground floor of the library. He named it Ovid's. I was delighted that he chose the name of the great Roman poet, best known for his Metamorphoses on Greek and Roman mythology, for it was clear that he believed deeply that UK was a place where students were themselves transformed by their contact with important works of art and dedicated professors like himself. Gratias tibi agimus, Lou.
 
~Jeff Peters, MCLLC Chair and Professor of French and Francophone Studies
 
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Lou was the most exemplary of humans. He was dedicated to his scholarship his students and colleagues. He made it a point of listening to other people and encouraging them. He certainly encouraged me when I was a young assistant professor. He founded what was then the teaching and learning center and is now the center for excellence in learning and teaching. Got a pure grant for preparing future faculty and professionals. My years working with Lew as his assistant dean or some of the best of my life. I learned so many things from him.
 
~Linda Worley, Professor of German Studies, MCLLC
 
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When I arrived at UK as an untenured faculty member, Lou Swift was already a dean (of undergraduate studies). He was the first dean that I had any kind of contact with and I was necessarily intimidated. But when I began to serve on the Teaching and Learning Center board with him, I realized that I should not be worried. Lou was one of the most down-to-earth, caring human beings I have  met on this campus. It was so gratifying to have a dean sitting on that board, to validate the importance of the teaching mission. Here was a stellar researcher giving his time to help assistant professors and graduate students improve our teaching and balance the demands of our research and service roles at UK. He was extremely supportive of my work in the classroom, awarding me a grant to develop a new course that I am still teaching. 
 
It was one of my most profound honors as department chair to recommend him for the A&S Hall of Fame in 2012. In this process, I felt that I was, in some small part, returning to him all the support he had given me. Lou Swift indeed represents to me the ideal professor, a true humanist in all senses of the word.
 
~Jeanmarie Rouhier-Willoughby, Professor of Russian Studies, Folklore, and Linguistics, MCLLC
 
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Lou Swift was my colleague in Classics for many decades. He was perhaps the most calm, peaceful, and kind person I have ever met—both as teacher and administrator. When I first arrived at UK, he took me to lunch and gave me a little orientation on the university, and I appreciated that. Lou had begun his academic career at a Classics Department at another university that was always in turmoil, and he always strove to help maintain a collegial atmosphere here. When our son Chris was born, Lou and Jo brought for him a beautiful set of Christopher Robbins book ends, which we still cherish. When Lou retired from Classics, my wife Jackie and I had his retirement party at our house. Jackie gave him a Peace Lily, a concrete expression of the character that was always on display. His was a life well lived.
 
~Robert Rabel, Emeritus Professor of Classics
 
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When I came to UK many years ago, in my first faculty position as an assistant professor of Latin and Greek, Lou and Hubert Martin were the most active scholars and teachers in the classics program, while I was weary of the long slog through my doctoral research and writing. Both of them were diligent in helping me find a research track of my own. At one point in my early days Lou was invited to join a team of scholars in a major project at the University of Toronto, the translation and annotation of the Collected Works of Erasmus. He was deep in a project of his own, but he suggested to me and to the team in Toronto that I might be interested in taking part. His thoughtful shepherding of me turned into work that engaged me for the next forty years, and continues to do so.
 
~Jane Phillips, Emerita Professor of Classics
 
 
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