Deak Swanson never went to college, but he had a great opportunity to go. As a student at La Crosse Logan High School, his architectural skills earned him a full-ride scholarship to Georgia Tech. The problem was, he wanted to be in the U.S. Marine Corps more than he wanted to go to college.
“I’ve always believed in service before self,” Swanson said. “I decided I could have a lot better life if I tried to help people.”
Swanson’s service in the Marines started with joining the reserves in 1958, before he was even out of high school. He was discharged from the Marines in 1966 and went on to start a company, Swanson Construction, that had as many as 140 employees at one time working on projects across the country, including three buildings on the Viterbo campus.
Swanson has given of his time to at least half a dozen boards for La Crosse area organizations in addition to the Viterbo board of trustees, on which he served from 1984–2004. About 20 years ago, Swanson decided to set up the Binkowski/Swanson Scholarship for Viterbo students.
“Having been on the board for so many years, I just felt an obligation to share,” Swanson said. “I could afford to do it. I just didn’t want anything with my own name.”
The Binkowski/Swanson Scholarship is named in honor of his youngest sister, Janie (Binkowski) Pressnall, now retired after working as a nurse for 32 years at a hospital in Stillwater, Minn. The Swanson part is for his younger brother, Gary, and Deak’s youngest son, Joshua, who graduated from Viterbo and now is a corporate attorney for Lunda Construction in Black River Falls.
Swanson enjoys coming to Viterbo’s annual Scholarship Thank You Event and getting a chance to hear firsthand about the impact the scholarship fund has had for students.
“It’s nice to hear them say that the scholarship was extremely helpful for them to get through school,” Swanson said. “It gives them an opportunity.”