Roy Arthur Swanson
April 7, 1925 - December 15, 2020

Roy Arthur Swanson of Mequon died peacefully at home on Tuesday, Dec. 15th 2020. He was 95 years old. Beloved husband of the late Vivian May (nee Vitous).

He was preceded in death by his father and mother, Roy B. Swanson and Gertrude (nee Larson) Scholla; his brothers Lesley Swanson and Robert Swanson; his sister Betty (nee Swanson) Hauble; an infant son Robert Roy Swanson; daughters Lynn Marie (nee Swanson) Snider and Robin Lillian Swanson.

He is survived by his brothers Richard Swanson and David Swanson; his sister Gloria (nee Swanson) McEllistrem; his son Dyack Tyler Swanson and daughter-in-law Bette (nee McCarthy) Swanson; his daughter Dana Miriam (nee Swanson) Butts and son-in-law Jon Butts; his son-in-law Gerald Snider; his grandchildren Brittany and Brent Swanson, A.J. and Tyler Butts, and Bret and Melanie Snider; his great-grandchildren Layla Rae Swanson and Aidan, Ava, and Lily Robin Snider, and many nieces and nephews.

His life was filled with a deeply compassionate love of all the members of his family. He was an incredibly kind, gentle, and generous man with a razor-sharp wit and a delightfully dry sense of humor. He was a decorated military veteran. He served in Military Intelligence and Reconnaissance in the European Theater during World War II. He received the Bronze Star during his tour of duty. He was a highly accomplished academic. He earned B.A, B.S, and M.A. degrees from the University of Minnesota, and he earned his Ph.D. in Classical Philology from the University of Illinois. He served as a tenured professor teaching several subjects including English, Humanities, Classics, and Comparative Literature at the University of Indiana, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee where he taught for the majority of his career. Notable published academic works include Heart of Reason: Introductory Essays in Modern-World Humanities, Odi et Amo: The Complete Poetry of Catullus, and Pindar’s Odes.

He touched the lives of many hundreds of students during his long career. Included among those who attended his class during his tenure at the University of Minnesota was a young student named Bob Dylan! In 1965, Dr. Swanson spoke at the Union of Macalester College. Gregory Pittman, of the Minnesota Daily, reported that students packed the Fine Arts Gallery of the Union and overflowed into the hall to hear Professor Swanson speak on Freudianism in Advertising.

At Minnesota and Wisconsin-Milwaukee, he received a total of four awards for Distinguished Teaching. Swanson, along with his colleagues Father Michael Fountain and Ester Ansfield, established UWM’s Holocaust Research and Information Project. 

His beloved and devoted students would write passionate nomination letters over the years and send gifts. His family can attest to Roy receiving hundreds, possibly thousands of letters, greeting cards, and well wishes over his entire lifetime from former students, which he kept and appreciated right up to his 95th birthday celebrated in April.

Professor Swanson was honored to deliver the Commencement Address at UWM in 1999. He inspired the graduates to always strive for excellence. He would go on to say, “Existentialists in the 20th century phrased always striving in various languages as “being toward”. Professor Swanson concluded, “Being on the way, or being toward, is the vital intensification of life, whether one sees life as terminal or as a prelude to heaven. Consider the suggestion that it is better to be on the way than to have no place to go”.

After his retirement Swanson wrote Blue Margin, Versions of Rhetoric, and Darkness and Rain, his first fiction novel. 

The family of Roy Arthur Swanson wish to extend sincere thanks to the Home Helpers of Mequon for their loving care and dedication to Roy.  We also want to thank Heartland Hospice for their wonderful care and guidance.

A special thank you to all the former students of Dr. Swanson who kept in touch with him throughout his life, especially his dear friends, Mr. Mike Willkommen and Mr. Nick Poulos.

A private memorial service will be held at Schmidt and Bartelt of Mequon, with immediate family only, due to Covid-19 restrictions. Condolences may be left on line at

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial gifts to the "UWM Foundation," 1440 E North Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53202, for the Roy Arthur Swanson Comparative Literature Merit Scholarship. Please direct questions to Leslie Horn, UWM College of Letters & Science, or 414-229-3294.