COOS BAY, Ore. – How do you honor a person who “is continuously helping young people navigate the world” and who “always gives back to Southwestern students in a positive and uplifting way”? Someone who’s volunteered for more than a decade mentoring college students and coaching K-12 and college athletes?
Here’s how: Southwestern Oregon Community College is very pleased to announce 2000 graduate LaMont Swinson of Coos Bay as our 2019 Distinguished Alumnus.
“LaMont has overcome much adversity in his life. He never gave up on his dream and is a great example of the success that comes from resiliency and determination,” said Dr. Patty Scott, president. “He is a great role model for our students today.”
Swinson is an assistant vice president and branch manager for First Community Credit Union in North Bend and a lot more. He has spent a big chunk of his life at SWOCC. Swinson started with the college in 1997, competing in basketball and eventually graduating with an Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer degree. During that time, Swinson earned honors as a Northwest Athletic Conference First Team member in 1999, and in 2000 led the Lakers to a NWAC Southern Regional Championship. He moved the following year to the Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls and was 2001 Cascade Conference Player of the Year, leading OIT’s team to the Elite Eight national tournament in its league.
Upon graduating from OIT with a business management and marketing degree, Swinson returned to Coos Bay and soon found his way back onto SWOCC’s campus. Now, he is a longtime member of the Laker Alumni Association. He’s the assistant men’s basketball coach and coaches youth sports team in the community. He also mentors young people, listening to them and encouraging them to take advantage of school and go on for college education. He makes time to meet with first-generation college students, and is a perennial volunteer teaching students about credit and managing their money.
“The leadership skills LaMont exhibits working with the young men and women as well as his staff at the credit union is commendable,” said Tom Nicholls, SWOCC’s Dean of Enrollment, who recruited Swinson to play for the college. “He is encouraging to both students and his staff in furthering their education through post-secondary educational opportunities and/or advanced training, serving as a terrific role model for young people and adults alike.”
Swinson came from Wasilla, Alaska. He was the first in his family to graduate from college, and it wasn’t easy getting here.
“It’s one of those situations where at some point, you have to make a decision to connect and better your life,” Swinson said.
Instead, he focused on school. Teachers and coaches recognized his potential, and opened their homes to give him a safe, stable place to live and a supportive environment to graduate.
“Living with these other families, even though they didn’t have everything in the world, they made good choices,” he said. “Sometimes it’s harder to make those good choices.”
After OIT, like many young people Swinson had the dream to compete professionally in sports, but priorities changed when his first child was born with a heart problem. He moved his family back to Coos Bay, focused on family and went to work. In 2007, he became branch manager at the credit union and he’s become more involved with students ever since.
“I express to them it might not have been part of the plan to be at SWOCC, but believe me that everyone here wants you to succeed,” Swinson said. “All in all, SWOCC allows young people a great opportunity to start their foundation and start learning in a positive environment on what they might want to become.”
The Distinguished Alumni award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated significant contributions to their professions, communities or academia. The college will host a celebration to honor Swinson at 6 p.m., Thursday, June 13. He also will be the keynote speaker at SWOCC’s 58th graduation at noon, Friday, June, 14.