Mark W. Swistak

  • First Lieutenant
  • Vietnam


Mark was born in Brunswick, Georgia, where his father was a Navy Blimp pilot.  From early childhood through college, he lived in Newport, Rhode Island.  His path to joining the military began at Roger Williams High School where he was a member of the Junior ROTC program.  He was a member of the Student Council and captain of the football and baseball teams.  Mark entered URI in the class of 67.  He was in ROTC as a Kingston Ranger and was in the color guard marching in President Johnson’s augural parade.  After graduation in 1968, Mark was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant.

He first reported to Fort Benning for Basic Infantry Training.  He then attended specialty training in Military Intelligence at Fort Holabird.  In February 1969, LT Swistak deployed to Viet Nam.  He was assigned to the 517th Military Intelligence Battalion, 5th Mechanized Infantry Division at Camp Red Devil, Quang Tri Province.  Lt Swistak was located five miles from the Demilitarize Zone (DMZ) working in conjunction with the 3rd Marine Division. LT Swistak’s mission was to determine where the Viet Cong and NVA were infiltrating along the DMZ using aerial photographs and aerial observers.  On the night of May 19th 1969, his unit came under heavy mortar and rocket fire hitting LT Swistak’s position, wounding several of his personnel.  Immediately thereafter, rockets were launched toward the fuel depot.  The fight continued with Cobra and Huey gunships engaging the enemy at the perimeter of Camp Red Devil.  His performance during this combat resulted in his being promoted to 1st Lieutenant and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Army Commendation Medal.

Mark’s civilian career was in the insurance industry.  He started working at Amica Insurance in 1970.  He then became Vice President at Meredith and Clarke, a Jamestown property casualty agency.  During this time, Mark was on the Board of Directors of the Independent Insurance Agents of Rhode Island.  His path subsequently shifted from property to life insurance.  He was affiliated with Connecticut Mutual, John Hancock, and for the past 23 years, Mark was a fulltime agent with Northwestern Mutual Life. 

Mark has been active in his church, the Lion’s Club, the Red Cross, and youth coaching.  He is a member of the American Legion, Jamestown Arnold-Zweir Post 22, and Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Jamestown, RI Post 9447.  His work in this regard is assisting veterans understand their benefits.  This work includes introducing veterans to people such those veteran reps at URI.  Mark was instrumental in recruiting, greatly increasing membership of the local American Legion and VFW chapters.  He annually participates in community events such as the Memorial Day Parade and Veterans Day Ceremony.

In 1967, Mark and Deborah Anderson (URI class of ’67) were married.    They settled in Jamestown, RI and raised 4 children, 3 of whom graduated from URI, and one from Brown.  They reside in the same house they bought 53 years ago.  Their children live nearby as do their 13 grandchildren.  In 2014, the Swistak family lost their daughter Julie to breast cancer.  When she graduated from URI in 1993, she received the President’s Award in Environmental Science and Resources.  The Swistak’s established the Julie Swistak Maloney Scholarship at URI, awarded each year to a student in the College of the Environment and Life Sciences.  The University of Rhode Island is an important and integral part of the Swistak family.  Their daughter Katherine is Coordinator, New Parent/Family Communication & Engagement at URI.  Their son Mark was captain of the URI Football team, and their son Matthew played football at Brown.  Every fall the family has a friendly football rivalry, where there is always a winner, either URI or Brown. Julie’s son Brett is a member of the class of 2023, with a major in Biomedical Engineering.  He is the fourth generation to graduate from URI.   For decades the Swistak’s have been avid supporters of URI sports and active members of the Alumni Association.