Rotary president named Paul Harris Award winner

Published 11:12 am Friday, May 5, 2023

DOWAGIAC — A beloved Dowagiac Rotarian was presented with one of the group’s most prestigious awards.

Rotary President Walter Swann was presented with the Paul Harris Fellow Award Thursday at the annual Dowagiac Rotary Friends and Family Dinner at Marion Magnolia Farms.

The Paul Harris Fellow Award, named after Rotary International Founder Paul Harris, is a Rotary award dating back to 1957 that recognizes individuals who contribute, or who have contributions made in their name, of $1,000 or more to the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International. The Dowagiac club awarded its first Paul Harris Fellow Award in 1977.

Swann graduated from high school before joining the Navy in 1962. After his military service ended in 1966, Swann moved to Long Beach, California, where he went to work at the naval shipyard there. That’s where he met his wife Alice, who worked there as a postal worker after transferring from her hometown of Dowagiac. It was a meeting he remembers vividly to this day.

In 1996, Swann retired from the naval shipyard and moved to Dowagiac with Alice, in order to help take care of her mother. A former professional boxer, Swann has given boxing lessons at Southwestern Michigan College, the Cass County Council on Aging Front Street Crossing facility and the Fit Stop 24 location in downtown Dowagiac.

While Swann has been retired for 27 years, he still enjoys working on projects and engaging the area youth. It is what keeps him going. 

“Everyone he’s gone, he has served God, he has served his family, he has served  his community and he served his country above himself,” said Rotarian John Seculoff. “From North Carolina to the U.S. Navy Training Center in Great Lakes, Illinois, to the USA Navy Base in Japan to the Navy ship yards in Long Beach, California and finally to the Grand Old City of Dowagiac with his beautiful wife Alice, Walter has lived putting the service of all above himself.”

Seculoff presented Swann with the award and concluded his speech with a heartfelt statement.

“Walter has been called many things. Coach, a man of god, mentor, teacher, volunteer, veteran and tonight, Paul Harris Award winner. The name I love about Walter is my friend. Congratulations.”

Speaking before the club, Swann said he was grateful for the award.

“I want to thank you again and thank you for this award, I appreciate it,” he said. “I’m going to continue working in this city as long as I am able to do so. I feel like I will be working for quite a long time because I feel good. I’m not James Brown, but I feel good.”