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Eller College Home > Our Stories > Dynamic Learning Community > Gerry Swanson Celebrates 40 Years at Eller

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Dynamic Learning Community : Gerry Swanson Celebrates 40 Years at Eller

Gerry and Gwen Swanson
Gerry and Gwen Swanson.
Photo byThomas Veneklasen.

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July 2010

By Liz Warren-Pederson

Dr. Gerald J. Swanson, Professor of Economics and Thomas R. Brown Chair in Economic Education, has been converting skeptical students into burgeoning economists at the UA for four decades.

For over 40 years, economics professor Gerald J. Swanson has been converting skeptical students into burgeoning economists. Economics Department colleagues joke about the “Swanson Effect” — fewer undergraduates declare econ majors or minors when Swanson is on sabbatical.

But if Swanson had stayed on his initial career path, the story would be much different.

When he graduated from high school in 1958, his advisor steered him into engineering — a hot career choice that seemed tailor-made for his strong math skills. He studied both engineering and business at the University of Illinois (UI) and upon graduation began work as an engineering trainee at the General Motors Delco Remy plant. “It wasn’t my cup of tea,” he confessed.

Meanwhile, his wife Gwen — whom he wed right out of college — was having a great experience teaching high school English and Spanish. They had an inkling that Swanson might be happier teaching high school math. So he met with the education department at UI.

“I found out that it would be two and a half years of additional education and student teaching,” he said. “And I already had an undergraduate degree! I’d also had several economics courses, so I decided to look into what it would take to get an advanced degree in the field.”

Swanson got up to speed by enrolling in additional econ courses, and began down the path to a master’s degree. But then fate intervened in the form of a summer teaching assignment, and a new direction opened up.

“I compare my life to a ball being launched in a pinball machine,” he said. “It keeps bouncing from one thing to the next, but luckily hasn’t gone down the center yet!”

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