Swan Song

swan.jpgOn Jan. 28, the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education approved the renaming of Independence Hall, the University’s main classroom building, as Swan Hall in honor of retiring Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs M. Beverly Swan ’63, M.A. ’66. “Pending final approval by the General Assembly, we hope to re-dedicate the building around this year’s commencement ceremonies,” said President Robert Carothers. “

As a student, Dr. Swan was here at URI when Independence Hall opened and took many of her classes there,” Carothers continued. “Later, as a member of the English Department faculty, she maintained her office in the building and taught most of her courses in writing and linguistics there. As she has remarked, she watched the building deteriorate over the years, and then last year saw it regain its original luster—and then some.

“Now, after nine years as assistant vice president for academic affairs and seventeen years as provost and vice president for academic affairs, Dr. Swan will return to the faculty as the Justin Smith Morrill Distinguished University Professor. During all of those years, Dr. Swan has also been an important donor to her alma mater, creating several scholarships herself and supporting many others.”

When Beverly Swan entered URI as a scholarship student in the fall of 1959, there were few women among either the faculty or in the administration. Her choice of English as a major was the result of an 8 a.m. literature class with Nancy Potter, emerita professor of English, who recalled that Swan “was an honors student from the start.”

Swan loved English literature so much that she went on to complete a master’s degree at URI and a Ph.D. at Boston University in the subject. In 1972, while still working on her Ph.D., she returned to URI as an English instructor and head of the SCRATCH writing program.

Swan’s strong connections with the faculty have served her well as provost. “As a provost, Beverly is an excellent listener,” said her friend Agnes Doody, professor emerita of communications studies. “She is someone you could disagree with, and she wouldn’t hold a grudge.”

As the most highly placed woman administrator in URI history, Swan has been an inspiration and mentor to numerous young women on the faculty and in the administration. “I would not be dean of the College of Arts and Sciences if it were not for her guidance and support,” said Dean Winifred Brownell. “I will miss her wisdom, her wit, and her warmth.”

Provost Swan will remain on the job until the arrival of her successor, Donald H. DeHayes, in April. Until then, she can still be found in her office in Green Hall, the one with the swan—a gift from President Carothers—outside the door.

By Vida-Wynne Griffin ’67, M.A. ’73