Louis J. Swift
Monday 1st of August 1932 - Saturday 30th of January 2021
Louis J. Swift, 88, Professor of Classics, emeritus at the University of Kentucky, died on Saturday, January 30, 2021 after a short illness.
He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Jodaniel; daughter Genevieve (husband Brent Owens) of Williamsburg, VA, son Dan (wife Julie Kohn) of New York, NY, daughter Polly of Lexington; and his grandchildren Ethan Swift, Joanne Owens (husband Tyler Shaw), and Aidan Swift.
Born August 1, 1932 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Lou grew up in Dover, Delaware. He was predeceased by his parents, John Edward and Gertrude McCusker Swift, and his siblings John Brennan Swift, Jeanne Martin, and Ann Swift.
Lou became a Roman Catholic seminarian at the age of fourteen and went on to receive degrees from Saint Mary’s University in Baltimore and Gregorian University in Rome. He left the seminary before ordination and earned his Ph.D. in Classics from John’s Hopkins University in 1963. He began his career at SUNY Buffalo and joined UK’s faculty as the Chair of the Department of Classics in 1970. His research interests focused on the study of early Christianity and the relationship between religion and politics in America. He was a founding member of the North American Patristics Society.
In addition to his teaching duties at UK, Lou also served as the Associate Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs from 1996-1998, the Dean of Undergraduate Studies from 1990-1999, and the Director of the University Studies Program from 1986-1999. In 2012, he was inducted into UK’s Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame. He leaves a legacy of intellectual curiosity, creative teaching, and rigorous scholarship--the fundamental qualities of academic life.
Lou’s Catholic faith informed, enriched, and strengthened every aspect of his long life. He was an active member of the Holy Spirit Parish Newman Center for almost 50 years, singing in its choir, leading as a cantor, presenting at adult education forums, and serving on numerous committees. Lou was exceptionally open-minded and loved to learn from others. He was equally a quiet leader with a strong moral compass. He gave generously of his time and resources both to the Church and numerous other causes in which he believed.
A lifelong baseball fan, Lou was delighted when his beloved Dodgers won the 2020 World Series. Before his retirement, he enjoyed maintaining his family’s home, making it a place of comfort for everyone. He especially loved puttering in his basement workshop for hours on end (though Jodaniel suspects he was watching or listening to baseball more than he was working there). His kindness, patience, warmth, and gentle sense of humor endeared him to so many.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Father Steve Roberts will conduct a private graveside service at Calvary Cemetery. A Mass of Resurrection will be held at Holy Spirit Parish Newman Center at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Newman Center, 320 Rose Lane, Lexington, KY 40508 or UK’s Swift/Longacre/Scaife Fellowship, College of Arts & Sciences, 2020 Patterson Office Tower, Lexington, KY 40506.
I was fortunate enough to have Dr. Swift as a teacher. He was a scholar and a gentleman with a quietly contagious enthusiasm for learning in general and classical languages and literature in particular. Like most truly great teachers, he was more interested in persuading his students to think about the material than in forcing his own interpretations on them. All of us were better students and better people for having known him.
Lou Swift was truly a gentleman and a scholar as well as a valued colleague.
Dr. Swift (Lou) was a great father, a most admired educator, and a dear friend to me. We shared the love of his children, especially Ms Polly and the love for the University of Kentucky. He helped me understand life by merely listening and guiding Polly and I through our life together. Folks at the university libraries always admired him as a professor for all, his thrill for research and his quite demeanor as he was very much at home sitting quietly behind the scenes of the library. He will be missed. 💙