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 UMD News Releases

Communication Associate: Public Relations | Lori Melton | | (218) 726-8830

October 8, 1999
Susan Beasy Latto, UMD Director of Public Relations 218 726-8830
William Wade, Director of University Relations and Development 218 726-8831
Dr. Bilin Tsai, Head, Department of Chemistry 218 726-7220

$10 Million Gift Launches UMD Capital Campaign

Swenson Family Foundation Commits to New Building, Scholarships and Research at UMD

Chancellor Kathryn A. Martin today announced a $10 million gift to UMD from the Swenson Family Foundation. "This is a gift which will catapult UMD into the 21st century," she said. The announcement was made as UMD launched its $28 million four-year Capital Campaign.

Martin went on to say, "Because of the generosity of the Swenson Family Foundation we hope to have a new science laboratory building on campus two years sooner than we first planned, as well as scholarships for superior students in chemistry, biochemistry and molecular biology, and an outstanding summer undergraduate chemistry research program."

Two of the directors of the Swenson Family Foundation are Jim and Susan Swenson of Orange County, California. Both are originally from Superior. Jim graduated from UMD in 1959 with a degree in chemistry and married the former Susan Locken, his high school sweetheart. This summer they celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary.

Swenson said, "I would like the Swenson Family Foundation to help others as I was helped as a college student at UMD. I want this Foundation to leave a legacy of helping students."

Dr. Bilin Tsai, head of the UMD Department of Chemistry said, "This generous gift to UMD provides scholarship opportunities, research experience and the potential for new, state-of-the-art science facilities. We are enormously grateful to the Swenson Family Foundation for this incredible gift."

Jim Swenson is an energetic, creative man whose roots lie deep in the Northland. He was born in Superior and is the eldest of five brothers. Upon his mother's death in 1955, Jim and his dad worked hard to keep the family together despite some very hard times. His father worked long hours running Eddie's Bakery, and the youngest brother in the family was only two years old.

Jim worked several jobs, including a paper route which he held for nine years through high school. He began college at UWS and then transferred to UMD and enrolled in the chemistry department where he termed his learning experiences "outstanding".

Working in the UMD chemistry lab doing peat research, Swenson says he received much individual attention, outstanding career counseling and "a real feel for industry and research." Those are things he wishes to help pass on to future generations of students at UMD.

He graduated from UMD in 1959 with a B.A. in chemistry; that degree, he says, made possible his tremendous success. He and Susan Locken were married that same summer.

After returning from the military, he proceeded to work for eight different large corporations including Honeywell, Univac, and Century Data. "I did not feel comfortable in the large corporate structure," he says.

With four employees and a $15,000 second mortgage on his house, Swenson began his own company...a very small printed circuit shop. His goal, he said, was "to bring high technology printed circuits out of research and into industry."

They created the "inner layer details" for printed circuit boards, and thus arose the name of his company, Details Inc. It became the fastest quick- turn-around engineering prototype circuit board shop in the United States whose client list included Compact, IBM, Apple, Motorola and the like. When Details Inc. was sold in 1997 it had 480 employees, and Jim Swenson knew them all personally.

Jim and Susan Swenson live in California, but they visit their native Northland frequently. Now Jim Swenson wants the Swenson Family Foundation to help others because of the help extended to him in his early years as a college student at UMD. "The value and gratification to me is enormous," he says.

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