In Update, we are profiling the deans of our colleges and schools. In this issue, we feature
Dr. Richard Sweigard, who joined the U of M as dean of the Herff College of Engineering
Dr. Richard Sweigard
Why did you choose to come to the U of M?
There seemed to be a good fit between my qualifications and experience and the needs
of the Herff College of Engineering at this stage of its development. It is a college
with a great history but still with much opportunity to grow in the future.
What do you enjoy most about being dean?
What I enjoy most is establishing goals, strategizing ways to achieve them, and then
actually reaching those goals. The greatest satisfaction I have received professionally
has come from helping academic units grow to meet their goals. This is based upon
my prior experience as both a department chair and an associate dean who was responsible
for all undergraduate programs at my former institution. I hope to experience that
here at the University of Memphis as well.
What is the most challenging part of your position?
I face two equally significant challenges. The first is not allowing the many important
day-to-day issues that arise to distract my focus from pursuing the strategic goals
of the College. Secondly, I am constantly challenged to maintain frequent and open
lines of communication with faculty, staff, students, alumni, corporate partners and
What is your impression of Memphis (the city) so far?
Memphis is a great place to live and work, although I do deal with a bit more traffic
than in my last location. I love barbecue and I have made the search for the perfect
dry ribs one of my missions in life.
What is the best advice you’ve ever given to a student?
Treat your college education as a full-time job. Many engineering students I have
encountered in the past do not understand the difference in effort required between
high school and college, but if they will view their education as a full-time job
and put that level of effort into their studies they will be successful.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received, and who was it from?
When I was a freshman in engineering, I became disillusioned and considered switching
majors. However, a cousin who was a PhD student in engineering told me that not only
would I be sacrificing an engineering scholarship but I would also be giving up a
great education. He helped me see that an engineering education was a great starting
point regardless of my ultimate career goals. Obviously, I took his advice.
Are there any hobbies you have time to enjoy?
Having time seems to be the key phrase. I enjoy sports although mostly as a spectator
these days. I like to engage in golf and bowling, as time allows. I do own a motorboat
and I enjoy spending time on the water, but I have not had the opportunity to pursue
this hobby since I moved in May.
Tell us about your family
I married my high school sweetheart, Nena, and we will celebrate our 40th wedding
anniversary in September. She is a retired nurse and a full-time grandmother. We have
two daughters, Rebecca and Rachel. Both are married and live in central Kentucky.
My older daughter, Rebecca, has an adopted son from Haiti and a biological daughter. My
younger daughter, Rachel, is due with her first child, a boy, near the end of September.