James Swenson, 81, entrepreneur and philanthropist
On October 5, 2018, James Irving Swenson, age 81, passed away peacefully at his home in Dana Point, California, following a battle with pancreatic cancer.
Known as a successful entrepreneur and generous philanthropist, Swenson was born on April 18, 1937, in Superior, Wisconsin, to Irving Swenson and Sadie (Bashara) Swenson. He married Susan Gillis (Locken) Swenson on July 18, 1959, in Superior, Wisconsin.
He had a passion for home building and improvement, model trains, wood-carved waterfowl and vegetable gardening. He was a list-maker who was always organized and expected the same from others. He loved his music loud, his food plentiful and his family close.
His proudest achievements include:
- The creation of the Swenson School of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, in 2007. With more than 3,200 undergraduate and 200 graduate students, it’s the largest college at UMD and the third largest in the University of Minnesota system.
- The Swenson Hall academic complex at the University of Wisconsin, Superior.
- The Swenson Center for Social and Behavior Sciences and the Swenson Science Center, which is under construction, at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California.
Swenson graduated from Central High School in Superior, Wisconsin. He attended the University of Wisconsin, Superior, and graduated with a degree in chemistry from UMD. He served in the National Guard.
His career included roles at Honeywell Research Center, Univac, General Motors AC Electronics, Lockheed Electronics, Rockwell International and Century Data.
Swenson became a pioneer in creating “inner-layer details” for printed circuit boards. His goal was to bring hi-tech printed circuit boards out of research and into the marketplace. Starting with four employees and a $15,000 second mortgage on the family’s house, his company” Details Inc.” became the fastest quick-turn-around engineering prototype circuit board shop in the United States, with a company of 500 employees and a client list that included Apple, IBM, Motorola and Compaq.
The sale of Details Inc. was the catalyst for the Swenson Family Foundation. And it was the sale’s profits” and the prudent investment of those assets” that now power ambitious students, treat the sick, and bring hope to those who need it most.
He served many terms as a regent at California Lutheran University and on the foundation board of the University of Minnesota. He and his wife were named Outstanding Philanthropists by the Orange County Register and the Association of Funding Professionals in 2008. The couple was nominated by Mission Hospital, Ocean Institute, Children’s Hospital of Orange County and Orange County Performing Arts Center.
Swenson is survived by his wife and three children: Cheryl Lentz (married to Christopher Lentz), Timothy Swenson (married to Rosie Swenson) and Charlene Teare (married to David Teare). The couple has eight grandchildren (Lana Martinez, Allison Lentz, Sarah Miller (married to Michael Miller), Miranda Lentz, Madinah Swenson, Ellis Teare and Cooper Teare). He is also survived by three of his brothers: William Swenson (married to Danna Swenson), Richard Swenson (married to Linda Swenson) and John Swenson (married to Kelly Swenson). His brother Robert (married to Dianna Swenson) passed away in 2016.
Swenson was an active member of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Dana Point, California.
A celebration of Swenson’s life will be held on October 22 at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church. Viewing will begin at 10 a.m., with a service at 11 a.m., followed by a luncheon.
On October 26, Swenson will be honored during a noontime luncheon at Concordia Lutheran Church in Superior, Wisconsin, followed by a burial service at nearby Riverside Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to:
- Gloria Dei Lutheran Church
- The Ocean Institute education center in Dana Point, California
- Furnishing Hope, which provides furniture and supplies to wounded warriors and families in crisis
- The Swenson Family Foundation Family Assistance Endowment at CHOC Children’s
- Date & Time: October 22, 2018 (10:00 AM - 11:00 AM)
- Date & Time: October 22, 2018 (11:00 AM)