First scholarship recipients honored to meet Swarts family

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First scholarship recipients honored to meet Swarts family, express gratitude

About this photo: The first recipients of the Sidney Swarts IANR Scholarship and Fellowship recently met Sidney’s family in Lincoln. Fifth to seventh from the right are Swarts IANR Scholars Julia Lindgreen, Leon Hemstreet and Lily Foley. First on the right is alumna Dr. Carol Swarts, who is Sidney’s sister. Other Swarts family members include Sidney’s daughter, Valerie Swarts Gardner (fourth from the right) and her family (from the left) with husband, Rob Gardner, and daughters Alex Gardner and Sydney Mason. Eighth and ninth from the right are UNL’s Professor Angela Pannier and Chancellor Ronnie Green.

Lily Foley is a sophomore biological systems and engineering major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and had never met the family who is behind the scholarship she was awarded. All of that changed after meeting family members of Sidney Swarts, who generously provided a new fund to help students.

“There are many scholarships out there, but rarely – if ever – do you actually meet someone who gave the money,” Foley said about meeting Sidney Swarts’ family members, including his youngest daughter, his family from South Carolina and Seattle and cousins from eastern Nebraska.

“Getting to talk to the Swarts family and getting to know them was really special. I felt honored.”

The Sidney Swarts Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR) Scholarship and Fellowship was established by Sidney M. Swarts. He died in 2017 and made a planned gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation to create a permanently endowed fund that will forever support UNL students. The scholarship was first awarded to students during the fall 2018 semester.

Sidney Swarts’ sister, Carol Swarts, an NU graduate and physician from Seattle who has enjoyed contributing to the university over the years, helped advise her brother when he was preparing his estate plan.

According to Angela K. Pannier, biomedical engineer and professor at UNL, Carol Swarts helped her brother see the importance of supporting Nebraska.

“I think it speaks to their family’s philanthropic efforts and their intense belief in education,” Pannier said. “It’s wonderful that the students get to honor his memory with a scholarship in his name.”

The second of four children, Sidney Swarts was born in 1929 in his northwest Nebraska hometown of Alliance. Throughout his life, his family explains, Sidney sought to help others and to improve his life through education. Today, helping students attend college through his endowed scholarship and fellowship serves as a permanent reflection of his spirit and life’s passion.

The inaugural Sidney Swarts IANR scholars are Leon Hemstreet, a junior biological systems engineering and chemistry major; Julia Lindgreen, a senior biological systems engineering with an environmental and water resources emphasis; and Lily Foley, a biological systems and engineering major.

This summer, all three Swarts Scholars were able to meet members of the Swarts family at a lunch event in Lincoln, where there was an opening ceremony for the new scholarship. While there, recipients were able to learn about Sidney Swarts and the uniqueness of the scholarship.

Swarts Scholar Leon Hemstreet said he was happy to see people from elsewhere in the state and around the country giving back to UNL and to his department of study, Biological Systems Engineering.

“I really love my department, and it’s cool to see that other people are invested in its success and invested in my education now as well,” Hemstreet said. “She [Carol Swarts] is someone to look up to as a very philanthropic person. Getting to meet people and be supported by people like her is amazing.”

Another investment that the Swarts family has made in the university is the Biological Systems Engineering Teaching Lab in Chase Hall on UNL’s East Campus. Hemstreet has had classes there and is teaching a lab section there this semester. He admires the equipment and said it provides him with hands-on experience that he wouldn’t have otherwise.

Hemstreet believes the scholarship will help him focus more on his studies and thinks of it as a reward for working hard these past two years at UNL.

“I was not an exemplary high school student. I was pretty good, but I wasn’t great, so I didn’t have a lot of scholarships coming into the university,” he said. “I think it’s really amazing when there are scholarships for people who aren’t freshmen that you can receive after you’ve proven yourself to be successful in college.”

For Foley, the scholarship help will allow her to spend more time in the lab, where she is currently working to develop a treatment for autoimmune disorders. Because she is so passionate about her lab work, she said she is looking forward to worrying less about how she’s going to afford her education and spend even more time in the lab she loves.

“The scholarship support is amazing, but the fact that we get to stay in contact with Carol Swarts is the highlight for me,” Foley said. “I know Sidney would have wanted that too. He played such a huge role in Carol’s life.”

While Foley wishes she could have met Sidney herself, she is grateful for the opportunity to be inspired by Carol Swarts who told the recipients to always follow their dreams.

“She had such an impact on him, and they were so close,” Foley said. “It’s neat to have that legacy carried out through Carol and be able to stay in contact with her. I know that she is someone who can be a mentor throughout the rest of my career.”

About Sidney Swarts

Sidney Swarts’ mother, a teacher, was the first woman to serve as superintendent for a Nebraska school district, and his younger sister was one of only three women in her medical school class — achievements made during times of little money.

Because of these role models, Sidney was a strong advocate for education and encouraged his daughters to pursue their own dreams. Growing up on a farm during the Depression, the family valued service and care for others, and Sidney lived that philosophy.

After high school graduation in 1947, Sidney studied at Hamline University and the University of Minnesota before enlisting in the Army in 1949. His Army career took him around the world and enabled him to pursue his quest for knowledge, which included Army Leadership School and Officer Candidate School. In the late 1950s he attended Austin Peay State College, and in 1964 he received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Maryland. In 1969 he was appointed a comptroller officer and completed a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Syracuse.

Sidney married Norma Faye Moore in Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1959, and they raised three daughters. Sidney consistently moved up in rank throughout his Army service, until he was appointed Colonel in 1972. He received numerous awards, decorations and commendations and served his country around the world, including stations throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia. In 1975, he took voluntary retirement as a “Full Bird” Colonel after 26 years of service. Sidney and Norma retired to Wilmington, North Carolina, where he received a teaching degree from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and taught high school math.

Sidney Swarts died Sept. 9, 2017, with Norma having preceded him in death.

This article is by Jessica Moore of Kansas City, Kansas, who studies journalism, advertising and public relations at the UNL College of Journalism and Mass Communications. She is the public relations intern at the University of Nebraska Foundation.

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