Swartz inducted into Women’s Hall of Fame

Swartz inducted into Women’s Hall of Fame

Following a string of awards since 2009, Kachemak Bay Campus Director Carol Swartz will get one more award today when she’s inducted into the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame. Swartz receives the award at a banquet tonight in Anchorage.

“It is rather overwhelming,” Swartz said of the honor. “It truly to me represents a tribute to everyone I work with. It’s a tribute to the community of Homer, and it’s a tribute to almost 37 years of being in Homer.”

Previous Women’s Hall of Fame inductees Janie Leask and Jo Michalski nominated Swartz. Last year, Leask and Michalski nominated Swartz for the 2016 Class of the YWCA/BP Women of Achievement.

“We thought, we’re on a roll, let’s do the Women’s Hall of Fame,” Leask said of nominating Swartz.

Swartz joins nine other women in this year’s class. Also inducted are Dixie Belcher, Kay Brown, Paula Easley, Elizabeth Elsner, Tennys Owens, Elizabeth Parent, Cathryn Rasmuson, Teri Rofkar, Elsa Sargento and Kathryn Seller. Previous honorees include Daisy Lee Bitter, another Homer educator. Former Homer Mayor Hazel Heath was inducted posthumously in 2010. The first class of 2009 included notable Alaska women such as Susan Butcher, Arlis Sturgulewski, Sarah Palin and Lisa Murkowski.

The Alaska Women’s Network Board of Directors came up with the idea of a Women’s Hall of Fame to honor Alaska women as part of celebrating 50 years of Alaska statehood. At the same time the Zonta Club had the idea of a virtual women’s wall. A web site, alaskawomenshalloffame.org, archives biographies of the Women’s Hall of Fame.

Swartz has been director of the Kachemak Bay Campus, Kenai Peninsula College, University of Alaska Anchorage, since 1986. She grew up in Providence, R.I., earning a bachelor of arts from the University of Rhode Island. After traveling in Europe, she went to Oregon, where she earned a masters of social work from Portland State University. She moved to Homer in 1980 and became the first clinical social worker and codirector of the Homer Community Mental Health Center, now The Center. With other women she helped found South Peninsula Women’s Service to provide shelter, crisis response and counseling for women affected by domestic violence and sexual assault. In 1985 she became the Kenai Peninsula’s first guardian ad litem through the Office of Public Advocacy, helping to advocate and protect the rights of children during court proceedings.

As director of Kachemak Bay Campus, she has helped to grow a rural campus with a full undergraduate program, including adult basic education. In 2002 Swartz helped found the annual Kachemak Bay Writers Conference.

“She has overseen this comprehensive campus of Kenai Peninsula College/UAA, offering successful academic, life-long learning and training programs,” Leask wrote of Swartz in her nomination. “Swartz established accessible and diverse cultural and educational opportunities on the southern Kenai Peninsula, recognizing that education is the key to making a transformative difference in our world and to people’s well-being.”

Previous honors for Swartz include the 2009 South Peninsula Haven House Women of Distinction, 2009 Alaska Center for the Book Contributions to Literacy in Alaska Award, 2012 Governor’s Award for Distinguished Service to the Humanities, 2013 University of Alaska Anchorage Meritorious Service Award, 2013 Homer Council on the Arts Educator of the Year and the 2015 Alaska Adult Education Association’s John L. Hulbert Award for outstanding contribution to lifelong learning.

“It’s quite humbling,” Swartz said of being inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame. “It’s quite a concept to celebrate the women who have shaped Alaska. Really, we’ve all done it with other men, women, and children and dogs.”