Homecoming/Reunion Weekend is just a few short weeks away. As it draws near, this issue of Rhodes magazine highlights the evolution of our physics program, the history of Rhodes Tower, and the need to renovate, expand, and improve our science facilities. Homecomings, reunions, science—seemingly different topics, yet serendipitously brought together by one man, Dr. Harry L. Swinney ’61.

On Saturday, October 26, during Alumni Convocation, Harry will receive the 2013 Distinguished Alumnus Award. A physics major at Rhodes, Harry was mentored by legendary professor Dr. Jack Taylor ’44. After graduating with honors, he obtained his PhD in physics from Johns Hopkins. A pioneer in the study of chaos theory and an expert in nonlinear dynamics, Harry has taught physics at the University of Texas, Austin since 1975. Brilliant and highly regarded by his colleagues, he has been published more than 100 times, has lectured at the nation’s most prestigious institutions, was considered for the Nobel Prize for his work on the exploration of Jupiter’s Red Spot, and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

But it’s not only his professional accomplishments that have distinguished Harry and earned him alumnus recognition. It’s also his humble, gracious nature and selfless service to others. Harry led community service efforts of the Austin Chapter of Rhodes. He spent hours serving homeless individuals through his church’s soup kitchen. He travelled to poor villages in Africa to teach math and science to tribal children. He is a willing mentor to Rhodes students and alumni considering careers in physics. In 2000, he established a scholarship in honor of Dr. Taylor to support students majoring in the physical and biological sciences.

Harry Swinney embodies the Rhodes Vision. By honoring the accomplishments of a scientist from our liberal arts college, we validate the extraordinary accomplishments achieved by our alumni in the sciences and recognize the importance of providing our future scientists, medical researchers, and health providers with the facilities, tools, and programs to better serve the world in which we live.

Please join me at Alumni Convocation (11 a.m. in Hardie Auditorium) to honor Harry Swinney and the values we hold dear as Rhodes alumni. Convocation is a meaningful opportunity to celebrate the very best of Rhodes College and well worth the trip back home.

Warmest regards,


Dr. Swinney is one of several recent Distinguished Alumnus Award recipients who have either majored in the sciences while students or have gone on to successful careers in science-related fields. Others include Dr. Brian Wamhoff ’96, Dr. William Coley ’50 and Dr. William Threlkeld ’53.