Update - The newsletter for the University of Memphis
More September Features:

FedEx Institute takes research and development to new heights

Initiative revives floundering neighborhoods

Kemmons Wilson family makes significant gift to U of M

Profile: Dean Richard Sweigard

Names in the news

U of M seeks nominations for Honorary Degree


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Profile: Dean Richard Sweigard

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 in June.

Dr. Richard Sweigard
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 others.

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.

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Last Updated: 8/28/13