Jane Swicegood, a longtime University of Arizona School of Journalism supporter who funded annual exploration grants for students, died Jan. 8 of complications of abdominal cancer. She was 88.
Swicegood started the exploration grants in 2019 “so students could broaden the scope of their professional portfolios,” said Prof. Carol Schwalbe, former school director. The funding helps defray the expenses for compelling journalistic projects, including investigative reports, longform narratives, podcasts, photo projects and documentaries.
“My heart is sad, but I’m relieved that she’s in a better place,” Schwalbe said.
A fixture at the school’s Zenger Award for Press Freedom ceremonies, Swicegood bought a table each year for friends, local journalists and students. She met Christiane Amanpour — the 2019 Zenger honoree — and sat next to the CNN international anchor during a reception in the school’s reading room.
When the school held its inaugural Hall of Fame ceremony, Swicegood invited UA President Robert C. Robbins, who attended the 2018 event and congratulated inductees in an impromptu speech.
A lifelong learner, Swicegood went back to school in her 50s to earn a B.S. in Agriculture in 1991 at the UA, where she also took journalism classes and met Professor Jacqueline Sharkey, former director of the J-school and a Hall of Fame inductee.
“Classes with Prof. Sharkey altered my thinking, opening areas of my brain formerly unexplored,” Swicegood said in a 2018 essay for the school's alumni magazine. “Her emphasis on watchdog reporting, more important now than ever before, influenced each of her students.”
Swicegood supported the school’s Jacqueline E. Sharkey Watchdog Journalism Fund and the First Amendment Forever Fund through the Society of Professional Journalists, “hoping to assist young journalists as they enter the world of ethical reporting and writing.”
Born on April 2, 1933, Swicegood was the youngest of six children. Her father had a steady job as a Southern Railway engineer, and his large garden and small orchard provided food for family, neighbors and those in need during the Depression, she wrote.
She grew up in Asheville, North Carolina, near the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation, and became interested in Native Americans of the Southwest. For 25 years at UA, she took classes and trips offered by the Arizona State Museum on campus.
“I became deeply involved in bringing the world’s largest collections of Southwestern pots and baskets out of storage,” Swicegood wrote. “After years of hard work and restoration, they are now housed in state-of-the-art exhibits” at the museum.
Swicegood is survived by children, Elise Brown of Tucson, Donna White (James F.) of Boston, and Dudley Brown Jr. (Irina) of South Australia; grandchildren, Owen and Amelia White of Boston, Hailey and Parker Brown of Australia, and Jonathan (Carla) Elins and Jolie Elins of New York City. She is also survived by Josepha Ntakirutimana, Susie Harris-Wille and Francisco Martinez of Tucson.
“This amazing, beautiful and strong woman; the one who raised me, has accepted a new assignment,” Dudley Brown Jr. wrote on Facebook. “Henceforth, she will be holding down two jobs — Chief Reorganization Officer and Minister of Grammar in Heaven.”
A celebration of Swicegood’s life will be held at a future date, the family said, depending on COVID-19 restrictions.