November 3, 2021

Harry Swinney


Opening a Student’s Eyes to the World

Harry Swinney

Harry Swinney describes his late wife, Gloria, as being devoted to her alma mater, Silliman University. “Silliman opened Gloria’s eyes to the world,” he said. “She grew up in a remote village in the Philippines, where the sixth grade was the highest grade available at her local school. To be as successful as she was and to contribute in as many ways as she did – all that was enabled by her experience at Silliman.”

Gloria Swinney – then Gloria Luyas – was the top student in her sixth grade class. That ranking made her eligible for a scholarship to Silliman High School – and set her on a path of lifelong learning. After high school, she entered Silliman University, graduating with a B.S. in nursing in 1963. A few years later, Gloria was serving as an exchange nurse at the University of Maryland Hospital in Baltimore, when Harry, then a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University, sat next to her at church one Sunday morning. They were married in 1967, and Gloria went on to earn a PhD in medical anthropology and join the faculty of the School of Nursing at The University of Texas at Austin. In 2018, Harry became Emeritus Professor of Physics at The University of Texas at Austin after having served for decades as the Sid W. Richardson Foundation Regents Chair of Physics and the director of the university’s Center for Nonlinear Dynamics.

Though far from her home in the Philippines, Gloria remained close to her Silliman network. She stayed in touch with Maria Roble, the long-serving dean of the School of Nursing and a mentor. Her friend Gloria del Carmen, a classmate in high school and at the School of Nursing, was living in the United States. Gloria’s brother, Rolando del Carmen, was a prominent criminologist whose graduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley, had been supported by the United Board.

When possible, Gloria and Harry would visit the Philippines as well, and during these visits, Harry came to know and appreciate Silliman. “Silliman is a strong institution that fills a niche: educating students who are mostly from small islands, who often are an underserved population.”

Swinney Family

In 1995, Harry and Gloria suffered a tragedy when their teenage son died of glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive form of brain cancer. They decided to honor his memory by establishing a scholarship fund for Silliman University students. Rolando del Carmen directed them to the United Board for help in setting up the fund, which awards scholarships to students in science, engineering, nursing, information technology, mathematics, or related sciences fields. Sadly, Gloria passed away from central nervous system lymphoma in 1997, but the scholarship support for students at her alma mater continues.

Harry continues to make additional contributions to the scholarship fund, and a bequest in his will designates support for the scholarship fund and for the United Board’s Centennial Fund for Leadership Development. “I can think of no better way to honor my wife and son than to give students and their teachers the potential to do more,” he explained. A scholarship changed the course of Gloria’s life, and through the Gloria Luyas Swinney Scholarship, young Filipino students are being given a similar opportunity to expand their horizons.