Robert Joseph Swan

BOX ELDER Robert J. Swan, Ed.D., 70, of Box Elder, died of natural causes Tuesday, Jan. 1, at Northern Montana Hospital.

Wake services begin 3 p.m. today at St. Anthony's Catholic Church in Box Elder. A Mass is 1 p.m. Friday at the church. Burial will follow in the Box Elder Cemetery. Holland & Bonine Funeral Home is handling arrangements.

Dr. Robert Joseph Swan (Indian names: "Eagles Watch Over Him" and "He Who Flies with Eagles"), Rocky Boy, has walked on. Bob was born Nov. 11, 1942, to Charles and Margaret (Parisian) Swan, in Harlem. He grew up on the Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation and graduated from Box Elder High School in 1961.

After high school, Bob joined the United States Navy, where he served our country with honor from 1961 to 1967. He was proud of his time serving aboard the USS Essex. In October 1962, the Essex was docked in Havana, Cuba, and was ordered to pull out in the middle of the night. It was not until years later that Bob learned how close the Essex came to being torpedoed during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Bob was a proud member of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

After his honorable discharge in 1967, Bob began his educational career, earning a certificate in electrical technology from Northern Montana College (1967), and a BA in sociology (1971) and an MA in guidance and counseling (1972) from the University of Montana. Bob was a faithful and ferocious fan of his Griz! Bob then went on to the University of South Dakota, where he earned an Ed.D. degree in adult and higher education administration in 1977. Bob was honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award by the University of Montana in 2003.

Dr. Swan earned numerous scholarships, fellowships and awards throughout his educational career and beyond. He was a fervent advocate of Indian education and played major leadership roles throughout the field during his career. Among these were National Indian Educator of the Year in 1979 and presidential appointment by Jimmy Carter to the National Advisory Council on Indian Education from 1979-82. He served as chairman of NACIE from 1979-80. Bob also served as the president of the National Indian Education Association (1989-90), Haskell Indian Junior College (now Haskell Indian Nations University) from 1988-93 and was appointed to the White House Conference on Indian Education advisory committee in 1991-92. This latter appointment was by unanimous Senate vote, which is a rare occasion these days.

Dr. Swan served in numerous leadership positions throughout his professional career. These included director of the Fort Belknap Tribal Education Department from 1977 to 1984, where Dr. Swan was one of the leading forces behind the creation of Fort Belknap College. After serving for a year as the director of the Tribal Education Department for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Bob returned to his home of Rocky Boy, where he served as federal projects coordinator from 1985-97.

Ever the entrepreneur, Bob began developing consulting businesses in college. Bob and his cousin Edward Parisian created a company called "SWEDCO" (Swan and Ed's Company), which later morphed into a company called "LPS and Associates" (with the addition of Eric LaPointe). Bob later created a sole proprietorship called "RJS and Associates," where he was the only associate. In 1996, Bob decided to incorporate "RJS and Associates, Inc." which was the second company created under the laws of the Chippewa Cree Tribe. RJS began modestly and has grown over the years into a very successful consulting company. Bob served as the CEO from 1997-2004, when he took a job with the Chippewa Cree Community Development Corporation as the business manager. Bob turned over the operations of RJS to his eldest son, Jim.

Dr. Swan was especially proud of his legacy with RJS. Over the past 40 years, Dr. Swan and his associates have successfully raised over $350 million, mostly for Indian Country. Dr. Swan was also proud of the fact that the majority of these funds were brought into his home reservation of Rocky Boy. In addition to prolific grant writing, Dr. Swan and his associates specialized in training, technical assistance, program evaluations and planning. Dr. Swan was proud of RJS, and it was his desire that it serve as his legacy, to continue on long beyond his time on this earth.

On a personal level, Dr. Swan was known for his kind heart, generosity and friendliness toward everyone he knew. Bob was a voracious reader, loved to hunt and fish and was an avid collector of American Indian art, sometimes helping out the prototypical "starving artist." Bob became an avid user of Facebook in his final few years, where he was known for the daily posts that brought great joy and laughter to his Facebook family and friends. Bob brought great joy to everyone he met and even people he didn't meet. Bob's best friend on Facebook was a man who he never met in person. Bob and Wes shared daily posts that entertained many people. Bob's last post ended, "This (New Years Day) was also a day to forgive everyone that you had words with the prior year. Not that way anymore. Too bad." Bob saw the good in people and the power of forgiveness.

Bob married Susan (Brooks) Swan in 1965. To this union were born three children, James Richard, Ann Margaret and Jon Paul. Bob and Susan later divorced. Bob married Diane (Garcia) Swan in 2000. Bob took Diane's son, Gerold Keith Parker, as his own. Bob was very proud of all of his children, but his real pride and joy were his grandchildren, Courtney, Jordan, Jenna, Nicholas, Winter, Neiko, Elia, Myka, Nathan and one on the way.

Bob was preceded in death by his parents, Charles and Margaret; and an infant brother, Stanley.

Bob is survived by his wife, Diane of Rocky Boy; brothers Wayne (Linda) Swan of Window Rock, Ariz., Ronald (Leona) Swan and Kenneth (Luella) Swan of Rocky Boy and Davy (Monique) Swan of Wasilla, Alaska; sisters Connie Morsette of Box Elder and Linda Swan of Billings; sons Jim Swan of Rocky Boy, Jon (Robin) Swan of Lexington, Mass., and Gerold (Misty) Parker of Box Elder; and daughter Ann (Nate) Gillham of Mableton, Ga.; nine grandchildren, with a tenth on the way; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.

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Published in Great Falls Tribune on Jan. 3, 2013