Monday, September 5, 2011

Jon Swenson

Click on the Photo to Enlarge
Jon Swenson came to town in our freshman year, as teacher/coach, and became our Guidance Counselor in our junior year before moving on in life.  He was a Lake Mills boy who impressed the locals when he came home from college in the summer and worked out by, among other things, chinning himself on the football field goalposts.

He was a good guy with great intentions and a personal philosophy summed up in his response to the Class of '61 Dedication of their Yearbook to him.  Essentially, he said one should set goals, believe you will accomplish them, and set out to do so immediately.  And he is the one person with whom I have a clear memory of a conversation about my career before leaving high school.

Ultimately he earned a Doctorate in Educational Administration and became the Stillwater, MN, High School Principal.  I happened to bump into him there in the late 80s and he was the same guy that we knew at NKHS.

Just recently I had a conversation with a fellow who graduated from Stillwater in the mid-80s.  He was a bit down on his luck and had made some choices in life that were not helping him greatly, but he seemed to have a warm spot for Big Jon.  Apparently this fellow had once been "encouraged" to pull the fire alarm at school, did so, and was called on the carpet in front of Swenson.

Yearbook Dedication by the Class of '61
Now, he had pulled this alarm and was caught red-handed doing so by George Thole, a legendary Stillwater and Minnesota football coach.  And he even admitted having done so when standing in front of Swenson, who refused to believe that he had.  "Come on, 'Bob', who's behind this?  I know it's not you!" was Swenson's adamant position.  Sounds so like him, doesn't it?

When we were sophomores Swenson set up a basketball "league" in our PE class, with self-reporting of wins and losses, all of them recorded on a paper thumb-tacked to the bulletin board between the gym floor and steps to the locker room.  Somehow there was a difference of opinion as to who had won which games, and memories seemed to get a bit out of whack as to whether Team A or Team B had won and what the score was, so there he was standing at the bulletin board, trying to sort it all out, with numerous individuals trying to insert their own version of the truth.

It wasn't going so well, especially when John Roberts very correctly said, "This can't be right because the number of  all the wins when added up HAVE TO equal the number of losses!"  With that, Swenson ripped the page off the wall and marched into the coaches room, and the league was over.  We never heard another word about it again.

He was a good guy, even if his faith and optimism sometimes got undermined by reality.

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