Alumnus Makes $2 Million Gift to Support Chemical Engineering

Thursday, May 05, 2022
Rose-Hulman's High Bay Lab

The John and Anne Swearingen High Bay Laboratory of Olin Hall will have chemical engineering students using 20 different learning units to learn about chemical engineering processes in real-world industry operations.

Alumnus John Swearingen and his wife, Anne, believe deeply in giving back and reaping what has been sown.

In John’s case, skills learned while earning a chemical engineering degree in 1981 provided a pathway for a successful career in the petroleum industry. He retired in 2020 as executive vice president of logistics and storage after a 39-year career with Marathon Petroleum Corporation. 

That’s why the couple has been faithful supporters of Rose-Hulman. Their latest philanthropic effort is a $2 million donation to establish the Department of Chemical Engineering’s first endowed faculty professorship, along with supporting laboratory and technology modifications for the department. Previous donations have provided scholarships supporting students in achieving their career goals in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). 

In recognition of the Swearingens’ generosity and loyalty, Rose-Hulman is naming chemical engineering’s High Bay Laboratory of Olin Hall in the couple’s honor. 

“Rose-Hulman laid a solid foundation for my professional success and our journey over the decades. We’ve been incredibly blessed and believe this is a way for us to give back to a place that is so special,” said John, who now lives in Tennessee with Anne. “Rose-Hulman’s commitment to excellence has been hallmark of the college. We’re so proud to help the college maintain that strong commitment in helping students succeed in their careers and life.” 

Rose-Hulman President Robert A. Coons remarked that the Swearingens’ support is helping the Institute retain its status among America’s top undergraduate STEM colleges and ensuring that Rose-Hulman continues attracting high-achieving students from throughout the world. The college has been No. 1 ranked in undergraduate engineering education for 23 consecutive years in U.S. News & World Report’s annual college guide. Annual surveys of technology-based college engineering deans/department heads also have consistently ranked the Department of Chemical Engineering as the best nationally among undergraduate programs.

“We’re appreciative that John and Anne have been faithful supporters of Rose-Hulman and our students,” said Coons. “Now, the couple will assist our faculty in bringing innovative skills into our classrooms and laboratories. They also will be helping our Department of Chemical Engineering remain on the cutting edge of technology and other educational resources as we begin the strategic planning process of examining how to meet future challenges.”

The John and Anne Swearingen Endowed Professorship in Chemical Engineering will honor members of the Rose-Hulman faculty for their exemplary accomplishments outside of Rose-Hulman and further support their professional activity in national and international circles of scholarship.

Chemical engineering students will use the John and Anne Swearingen High Bay Laboratory throughout their undergraduate careers to learn about chemical engineering processes. Located in the center of Olin Hall, the spacious laboratory has 20 different learning units that replicate real-world industry operations involving distillation, gas absorption, liquid extraction, drying, filtration, microfiltration, and membrane separations. This equipment has been supported by Endress+Hauser, Eli Lilly, Procter & Gamble, and other donors.

Department Head Kimberly Henthorn, PhD, recalled meeting John Swearingen when both were members of the department’s advisory board, providing valuable feedback about current industry standards and keeping students on the cutting edge of advancing technology.

“John always impressed me with his sincere love for the chemical engineering department and the gratitude he had for his Rose-Hulman education,” said Henthorn, a 1999 chemical engineering alumna. “Always humble and kind, John was an advocate for our students and a strong supporter of our unit operations laboratory. His guidance, encouragement, and practical advice helped to shape our department into what it is today. It is so perfect that our students will associate his name with our top teacher/scholars and our laboratory long into the future.” 

Rose-Hulman students are honing some of the same laboratory techniques that Swearingen discovered in the late 1970s and early 1980s and applied to a variety of positions within Marathon Petroleum. After starting as a process engineer, he worked through a series of operational and technical leadership roles, including leading the plant in Robinson, Illinois, from 2001-08 where he initially started. Later, Swearingen was president of Marathon Pipe Line LLC (2009-11), corporate vice president for health, environment, safety and security (2011-15), and senior vice president for transportation and logistics (2015-2017) before retiring in 2020 as executive vice president for logistics and storage for Marathon Petroleum’s master limited partnership.

“The outstanding educational lessons that Rose-Hulman instills on its students have stood the test of time,” said John Swearingen. “I am among the many thousands of alumni who have been very fortunate to reap the benefits of the lessons of hard work, resiliency, teamwork, and problem-solving, while being within a caring campus community. I have found that Rose-Hulman alumni stand out among the rest because of the lessons learned under quality faculty and working with state-of-the-art educational resources in a highly competitive environment. Anne and I are truly honored to be able to help maintain the high standards of Rose-Hulman and its Department of Chemical Engineering.”