Bernard L. “Bernie” Swords
"I've been fortunate to have many good opportunities in my life, thanks, in part, to my education at The University of Iowa."
When Bernard L. “Bernie” Swords of Burlington, Iowa, died in 2006, he left behind many friends with happy memories. He also left a philanthropic legacy that will resonate for generations at The University of Iowa: approximately $300,000 in estate gifts—on top of almost $100,000 given during his lifetime—to numerous UI areas.
Swords, a 1942 UI business graduate, picked the right year for a die-hard Iowa Hawkeye fan to begin his UI college experience: 1939, perhaps the most mythical and memorable year in Iowa football history.
That was the year Nile Kinnick won the Heisman Trophy and the “Ironmen,” as that Hawkeye squad was known, scored dramatic victories over Notre Dame and Minnesota. Swords knew Kinnick and became good friends with Mike Enich, a tackle on the team. He went on to hold season football tickets for more than 50 years.
That allegiance to the University didn’t stop with being a Hawkeye fan, however. Swords, a proud Presidents Club member, also gave to the UI Foundation for more than 40 years, for UI areas as diverse as the UI Henry B. Tippie College of Business, where he established the Bernard L. Swords Scholarship; Hancher Auditorium; the School of Music in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; University Libraries; and men’s and women’s athletics.
In addition, as a demonstration of both the breadth and depth of his commitment to the UI, Swords established a charitable bequest in his will benefiting all of these areas. Now, his dreams are being realized, as people throughout the UI benefit from his generosity.
Charitable bequests were an ideal way for Swords to establish his UI legacy. Because bequests are fully revocable, Swords could always rest assured that if his financial situation changed, his bequest could have as well.
By working with the UI Foundation planned giving staff, Swords was able to help future generations of UI students receive the best possible education. That was important to Swords, because his UI experience was formative in his own life.
He was a student in the College of Commerce, as the Tippie College of Business was then called, and was an active member of his fraternity, Beta Theta Pi. He learned from such wonderful teachers as Chester A. Phillips, then the dean of the business school, and the campus social environment taught him valuable “people” skills.
Taken together, his UI experiences prepared him for a fulfilling life—one marked by extraordinary loyalty, both to his employer and his alma mater. After a stint in the Army, Swords worked as a traveling salesman for 40 years, selling wholesale furniture in Iowa and Nebraska for Chittenden & Eastman Company of Burlington. “I liked it as much on the last day as on the first,” he said. He retired in 1987.
Swords’s explanation for his far-reaching charitable bequest to the UI was simple. “I appreciate the overall picture of the University,” he said. “I’m thinking of the future, of the students.”
That future is now here—and those students are benefiting from the Bernard L. Swords legacy at Iowa.