James I. Swenson attributes much of his outstanding success to the education he received at UMD; and he and his wife, Susan, have given back generously.
In October 1999, the Swenson Family Foundation donated $10 million to UMD, the largest single gift the campus has ever received. Of that $10 million, $7.5 million was committed to the James I. Swenson Science Building, and $2.5 million designated for chemistry, biochemistry, and molecular biology academic scholarships and research grants. Since 1993 the Swenson Family Foundation has each year supported up to 32 UMD academic scholarships.
Jim worked several jobs, including Eddie's Bakery and Great Northern Bridge and Building Department. He began college at UWS, 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 and Univac. "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 Compaq, IBM, Apple, Motorola and the like. When Details Inc. was sold in 1996 it had 480 employees, and Jim Swenson knew them all personally.
Jim and Susan Swenson live in California, but they return to 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.