FORT COLLINS, CO – Harold Roland Swardson, 95, a professor of English at Ohio University for 47 years, died of heart failure on Dec. 22 in Fort Collins, CO.
Generations of students were treated to his courses on the Bible as Literature, 17th-Century Poetry and Great Books. Long after he could have taken it easy with graduate seminars, he continued to teach freshman classes because, he said, it was both harder and more worthwhile.
He and his wife, Mary Anne Swardson, moved to Fort Collins in 2013 to be near their youngest daughter, Christine Swardson Olver. He kept working, publishing three major academic papers, all in Philosophical Forum, after the age of 92.
His other loves included the Cincinnati Reds, meteorology, flying balsa-wood and, later, foam, model airplanes with his grandchildren and great-nieces and -nephews, and travel. With his family, he lived in Japan, on a Fulbright fellowship, and Switzerland, on sabbatical, for a year each. With Mary Anne and various combinations of daughters, he visited most of western Europe as well as Russia, parts of Africa, the Middle East, Canada and the United States.
Harold Roland Swardson (he used both first names and his initials at different times of his life) was born on Sept. 16, 1925, in Chicago. His father was the son of Swedish immigrants; his mother came from a Scottish family. The Swardsons moved around the Midwest during his childhood and teenage years as his father, a salesman, struggled with alcohol.
Roland went to four different high schools, graduating from Norwood High School in Cincinnati. After being accepted to the Navy ROTC program, he was sent to Tulane University, where he got his bachelor’s and master’s degrees on the GI Bill.
It was at Tulane that he met Mary Anne Thompson, a native of Georgia and a student at Sophie Newcomb College, Tulane’s sister school. They met when she applied to work on the student newspaper, where he was editor-in-chief. They were married on Mary Anne’s birthday, on Sept. 10, 1949.
He served on the USS Bexar for several tours during the Korean War. They then returned to the University of Minnesota so he could begin work on his PhD, and not long after that he was hired in Athens. During their years there, Mary Anne also earned a PhD, in mathematics, and served as chair of the Ohio University math department for three years.
Roland is the author of “Poetry and the Fountain of Light: Observations on the Conflict Between Christian and Classical Traditions in Seventeenth-Century Poetry,” (drawn from his PhD thesis), “Understanding Christianity: With Help from Dante and Milton,” “Today’s Sex and Yesterday’s Poetry: Readings from the Erotic Renaissance,” “Teach Me Love: Understanding from the Renaissance Poets” and “Execution by Idiots: How American Civilians Learned to Make an Amphibious Assault.” He also published at least 14 academic articles.
He is survived by Mary Anne; his three daughters, Anne Swardson Trueheart (Charles), Catherine Malloy and Christine (Brian); six grandchildren, Christine Anne Malloy, Patricia Catherine Merkel, Louise Trueheart, Henry Trueheart, Madison Olver and Cameron Olver; and one great-grandson, Parker Merkel. His two brothers, Donald and Roger, predeceased him.