The 24th president of Carthage College, John R. Swallow is a strategic, relational, and entrepreneurial leader dedicated to improving education through liberal arts institutions.

President John Swallow Recruited as Carthage’s president in 2017, he saw an unusual opportunity to lead an historic liberal arts college to create an ever more meaningful environment for students, to design that environment for the wider range of students accessing higher education today, and in doing so to meet head-on the many challenges of the private higher education sector, from demographics to family finances. Carthage faculty, staff, and board leaders affirmed a combination of values he found especially compelling: a deep appreciation for the liberal arts, study abroad, and inclusion, together with a commitment to an entrepreneurial and resourceful approach to the future. He entered office on July 1, 2017.

In the five years since, he has led Carthage’s evolution, both in the education it offers and how it organizes itself to offer that education. The resulting achievements, which he credits to the great work of an outstanding faculty and staff and a committed and supportive board, include record first-year enrollments, fundraising levels nearly twice as high, and the strong endorsement of alumni in a recent survey. President Swallow often remarks that, since its founding in 1847, Carthage has a distinguished history of evolution, more than that of many similar institutions, and finds in that ongoing evolution the source of its success. Carthage is now as strong as it has ever been, and aspires to increase its reach and impact more than ever before.

In 2018 President Swallow oversaw the launch of The Aspire Program™, a comprehensive, four-year career development program for all undergraduates, deploying a $15 million gift. In 2019, determined to make a Carthage education accessible to the widest possible pool of talented students, he stood up for cost transparency and lowered Carthage’s “sticker price” by 30 percent. That year he also began the ongoing introduction of new curricular and co-curricular programs, which have now included undergraduate majors in allied health, data science, engineering, game development, playwriting, and special bachelor’s of music programs in piano performance and collaborative piano, music education, and musical theatre; master’s degrees in athletic training, sports management, and music pedagogy, including a track in music theatre vocal pedagogy; and four new varsity athletic teams, including Carthage’s first coed team, in esports.

“We have thought deeply about how we can best serve our students as they pursue their education and dreams. Carthage focuses on developing in our students high-value practical skills, but also boundless intellectual curiosity. Students discover their curiosity at Carthage.” — President John Swallow

In 2020 he committed Carthage to eliminate equity gaps by 2030 as part of the Moon Shot for Equity, establishing a leadership position for Carthage in this important work, and he announced a substantial Anti-Racism Plan of Action. Under his leadership, Carthage established its first alumni affinity group, the Wiggan-Kinniebrew Black Alumni Network, and held celebrations for 150 Years of Carthage Women and 75 Years of Black Excellence. These efforts included campaigns that raised nearly $10 million for related work, doubled the number of women on the Board of Trustees, and doubled the number of board members of color. In 2021 the College formally replaced its team names Red Men and Lady Reds with Firebirds. In doing so, Carthage inaugurated a new identity that goes beyond athletics to unite all students and represent the fullness of liberal arts, reflected, for example, by incorporating Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite in some formal events. In 2022-2023 Carthage eliminated equity gaps in first to second semester retention, which reached an all-time high and did not differ by race or income (as defined by Pell grant eligibility).

President Swallow has consistently prioritized Carthage’s reorganizing and renewing itself for the future, always focused on meeting student needs and interests. In 2022 he led fundraising for a new home and expanded staffing for the College’s Health and Counseling Center, brought together several academic departments to inaugurate a new School of Business and Economics, and recruited a new food service provider to set a new standard of quality. Behind the scenes, new software systems for student success and advancement have been installed, a new enterprise resource planning system is well on its way to full implementation, and a variety of needed building system replacements are taking place.

President Swallow sees these many steps as laying the strongest possible foundation for Carthage’s future, and is confident the years ahead will bring Carthage to a greater reach and impact than ever before.

President Swallow’s entrepreneurial approach is grounded in his deep interests in developments in business, higher education, and the wider nonprofit sector, including economic development and workforce development. He is the past chair of the Higher Education Regional Alliance of 18 postsecondary institutions enrolling over 125,000 students in seven Wisconsin counties, together with over 10 additional partner organizations. He has served as chair of the board of the Kenosha Area Business Alliance and now sits on the Leadership Council of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, as well as on the leadership tables of two StriveTogether organizations, Building our Future in Kenosha County and Higher Expectations for Racine County.

President Swallow’s board service includes eight years on the board of Agnes Scott College, a women’s college in Decatur, Georgia, that is recognized nationally for innovation, social mobility, and students’ first-year experience; for 10 years as trustee and regent, including as board secretary, of his alma mater, The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee; and as a board member of the Council of Independent Colleges.

President Swallow left high school before graduating in order to enroll at The University of the South at the age of 15. He graduated in 1989 with honors in both English literature and mathematics, and then pursued his graduate studies at Yale, from which he holds two master’s degrees and a Ph.D., all in mathematics. Recognized early for his teaching and scholarship, he held the John T. Kimbrough chair in mathematics at Davidson College in North Carolina, teaching mathematics and interdisciplinary humanities there for 17 years, and winning its Omicron Delta Kappa Teaching Award in 2010. Committed to intercultural education, he spent sabbatical years at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and Université Bordeaux I. After beginning his career at Davidson, he was recruited in 2011 to return to his alma mater by John McCardell, former president of Middlebury College and then vice-chancellor and president of Sewanee. At Sewanee, Swallow served as provost, and later executive vice president and chief operating officer, before assuming the presidency of Carthage.

President Swallow has published articles in The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Huffington Post, Inside Higher Ed, and The Hechinger Report, as well as an undergraduate textbook and more than two dozen research articles in mathematics, many with former undergraduate honors students. In the last two years, three such co-authored research articles were published, and two more are accepted for publication.

His wife, Cameron, has extensive experience as a secondary school math and English teacher, as well as teaching French, history, and theater. In 2018 she became Wisconsin’s state co-coordinator for Braver Angels, a nationwide effort to depolarize political conversation, and she also serves as a board member for several area not-for-profits. Mrs. Swallow is part of bluegrass band Flat Creek Highway, which plays at venues across the region.

The couple has two grown children, Bard and Sophie, and a basset hound, Watson.

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VIDEO: President John R. Swallow: The Carthage Story