Distinguished Alumni Award

Charles Swanson (75BBA, 76MBA)

2023 Distinguished Forevermore Staff Award

Chuck Swanson, retired executive director of Hancher Auditorium, has had a remarkable influence on the University of Iowa. His 37 years with Hancher elevated it to new heights, even after the loss of its original home. While putting people first, he has cultivated relationships that enrich the arts, university, and state of Iowa.

During college, Swanson attended performances at Hancher, which was built in 1972. Upon graduation, he worked in finance before becoming Hancher’s business manager in 1985. He was promoted to associate director in 1991, which ushered in a golden era. Swanson began strengthening partnerships to continue bringing world-class artists and innovative programming to the stage. He was promoted to executive director in 2002.

When the original building was destroyed in the 2008 flood, Swanson shepherded the organization through the redesign and rebuilding process. The new Hancher opened in 2016 with a celebratory gala, and the house was packed. That is, until the COVID-19 pandemic stunted arts venues worldwide. Swanson’s solution was to take performances outside and across the state—similar to a collaborative 2007 Joffrey Ballet venture.

Through thick and thin, Swanson went above and beyond to ensure people came first, involving others in refining Hancher’s role as “the largest classroom on campus” and a key recruiting tool for the university.

Jane Downer worked with Swanson for 25 years. She credits him as one of the UI’s best ambassadors for “helping all Iowans recognize the contributions the UI makes to our state’s citizens.”

Described as a phenomenal leader, caring, courageous, and enthusiastic, Swanson has made an impact that will be forevermore.

About Distinguished Alumni Awards

Since 1963, the University of Iowa has annually recognized accomplished alumni and friends with Distinguished Alumni Awards. Awards are presented in seven categories: Achievement, Service, Hickerson Recognition, Faculty, Staff, Recent Graduate, and Friend of the University.

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Read stories of Hawkeyes making a difference in Iowa and around the world.

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