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This article is part of a series profiling winners of the 2013 Outstanding Alumni Awards, which will be presented at the annual American Association of Community Colleges convention in April.
William H. Swanson, chairman and CEO of Raytheon, has always been open to change and trying something new.
When Swanson, a native of California, initially enrolled at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo, he “thought of playing professional golf on the tour.” A golf coach at the college offered him a scholarship, which allowed him to earn an associate degree and ultimately discover his love of engineering.
“Cuesta College sent me on a wonderful path toward a career in engineering,” Swanson said. “A counselor there got me excited about engineering. He saw that I had the potential to become an engineer.”
Once that spark was ignited, Swanson was well on his way to furthering his education and pursuing his chosen profession. Throughout his career and life, he has shown commitment to achieving success in his endeavors and preparing the next generation of engineers to succeed as well.
Swanson graduated from Cuesta College in 1969 and continued his education at California Polytechnic State University, where he graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in engineering. In 1972, he joined Raytheon, where he has held various leadership positions, including manufacturing manager, senior vice president and general manager of the mission systems division, and president of electronic systems.
“I am so proud to work for a company that provides critical technologies, systems and services that help our servicemen and women successfully complete their missions and come home safely,” Swanson said.
He became CEO of the company in 2003 and added the responsibilities of chairman 2004. That same year, Swanson received a Diversity Best Practices CEO Leadership Award for his commitment to diversity. As Raytheon’s first executive diversity champion, Swanson has led the company’s efforts to create an inclusive workforce.
His accolades include:
Active in education
Swanson remains active in the field of education as a member of the California Polytechnic State University President’s Cabinet, the Cal Poly Foundation board of directors, the California STEM Learning Network board of directors, and the University of Massachusetts President’s Advisory Council. He is chairman emeritus of the Business-Higher Education Forum and a member of its executive committee.
“I strongly believe in being a lifelong learner,” Swanson said. “The learning process is one that never stops. Be curious. Learn something new every day and from every experience.”
Focused on STEM
Under his leadership, Raytheon has embraced corporate social responsibility to help secure the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) pipeline for the future. The company launched its flagship MathMovesU program, an initiative committed to increasing the interest of students from middle school through college in math and science education by engaging them in hands-on, virtual and interactive activities (see video, below).
The program’s goal is to engage school students in math by illustrating the connection between math, their passions and interests and “cool” careers. Raytheon has committed more than $72 million to MathMovesU initiatives.
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The company has also expanded its support for a national program called MATHCOUNTS, which provides the opportunity for half a million students to participate in math competitions each year. Swanson serves as the honorary chair of the program, and Raytheon is the sole sponsor of the MATHCOUNTS National Competition through 2014.
“As an engineer, what is most gratifying is seeing the progress we’re making at Raytheon and elsewhere in supporting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education to inspire a new generation of innovators,” Swanson said. “There is no greater satisfaction than making a difference in the lives of those who follow us.”
Swanson and Raytheon continue to promote the field of engineering by giving scholarships to engineering students at Cuesta College. From Swanson’s perspective, higher education institutions such as Cuesta have a vital role to play in shaping the future.
“Community colleges are so important; and they are needed now more than ever. They help open doors of opportunity for students,” Swanson said. “They are great pipelines to help businesses find the talent to strengthen their workforces.”
“They can inspire students, like me, to continue their educations,” he continued. “Community college changed the focus on my outlook on life, and I am happy to use my community college start as an example for others.”
As Swanson looks to the future, he reaffirms his commitment to making positive change in the world: “I have many goals and passions—the most important of which is to continue to find ways to make a difference in the lives of others.”
Young women from Lincoln School in Providence, R.I., visit Raytheon's Seapower Capability Center to experience real-world applications of math and science.
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