The Swallen Story

Clarence Swallen was born in 1900.  In 1913 his older brother and he attended a Seventh-day Adventist evangelistic meeting in Ohio.  Clarence remembered going to the meetings on his bicycle.  His brother joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church and later attended Madison College, a self-supporting school, in Tennessee.  He became a nurse/health educator and his goal was to be a missionary in China. Although that dream was never fulfilled because of health reasons, he spent 60 years as a missionary in the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee.  Clarence loved his brother and would frequently visit him in his humble Appalachian home.

After his brother’s death he committed part of his estate to supporting Seventh-day Adventist missionary work around the world.  In 1962 Clarence and his wife visited Andrews University and met with Dr. Richard Hamel, then president.  Dr. Hamel took them on a tour of the campus riding in Clarence’s old Nash Rambler with a hole in the rag top of the roof.  It was raining that day and as Mrs. Swallen slid into the back seat she got her skirt wet. They took Hamel’s riding with them as an indication that he was a humble man and that Andrews University was a quality institution. 

At the end of that visit, Swallen gave his first Social Security check to Andrews University to help students who wanted to be missionaries. Hamel gave the money to two students and had them write letters of thanks.  That tradition continued and in 1985 when David Faehner, VP for University Advancement, visited him at his home he wept as he shared those two first letters.  He funded future missionaries until his death in 1989 and some Andrews University students sang at his funeral.

The story does not end with Swallen’s death.  In his estate, he left an endowment of $1.1 million to Andrews University.  The interest from that premium has assisted over 1,000 students with over $1 million in the last 20 years.  In addition, he set aside money to conduct the Swallen Mission Lectureship series sponsored by the Department of World Mission at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological seminary. Leading missiologists who have spoken include Paul Hiebert, Charles Van Engen, Jonathan Bonk, Dudley Woodberry, Darrell Whiteman, and Scott Moreau.

David Faehner, VP for University Advancement
Gorden Doss, Professor of World Mission

Clarence Swallen with three of the many students missionaries and international students he helped. Left to right: Mark Sugi, "Sheny" Lopez, Gus Ortiz.

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