Three Fowler School of Engineering (FSE) students joined Interim Dean Tom Piechota and his wife Colleen in early November for a special luncheon in their home with the Swenson family. In 2021, the Swenson family made a generous $5 million donation to the Fowler School of Engineering, creating a home for the next generation of engineers in the Swenson Family Hall of Engineering.

The Swenson family with Tom Piechota, his wife, and the three Fowler Engineering students.

The luncheon, hosted by Interim Dean Tom Piechota, served as a catalyst for the Swenson family to further their connection to our students

The Swenson family’s philanthropic efforts began with Jim Swenson. Jim was a noble engineer who famously brought high-tech circuit boards out of the research labs and into our everyday lives. His original circuit boards were used by major tech companies like Apple, IBM, and Motorola. His impressive impact in engineering continues to inspire current and future engineers. 

Through much ambition and abundant generosity, the Swenson family has done more for the future of engineering by providing a home for the students attending the Fowler School of Engineering. Beyond the physical infrastructure, the Swenson family’s commitment to engineering students and the unwavering value of community has profoundly impacted Chapman University. 

Jim, who passed away in 2018, valued his connections with future engineers. So, this luncheon hosted by Piechota served as a catalyst for the Swenson family to further their connection to our students. Jim’s wife and president of the Swenson Family Foundation, Susan Swenson, their daughter, Cheryl Lentz, a member of Chapman’s Board of Trustees, and her husband, author Christopher Lentz, along with their daughters, Miranda and Allison Lentz ‘13, proudly represented the Swenson Family Foundation.  

What my dad loved most to do on campuses was meeting and talking with the students. He loved learning about where they came from, what they were studying, and their plans for the future. Like Dad, we also enjoy meeting with the students for a variety of reasons; it reminds us of Dad, it brings Dad to them, and it allows us to learn about their journeys. It is always ‘awe’-inspiring to hear them speak about their goals for the future. It gives us hope that our world will be in capable hands,” said Cheryl Lentz.

The notable family met with Chapman engineering students to learn about the students’ experiences during their time at the Fowler School of Engineering. Chapman engineering students Olivia Chilvers, Matt Shugarte, and Zuleyka Urieta met with the Swenson family to express the significant impact of the facility in cultivating a meaningful community among peers and professors and discuss the research projects they’ve participated in and the internships and professional positions they’ve held while completing their studies. 

Christopher Lentz sitting next to Olivia Chilvers during the luncheon.

Christopher Lentz, along with his wife Cheryl Lentz and their two daughters, Allison and Miranda Lentz joined Susan Swenson to meet the three Fowler Engineering students.

Ever since his college days back in 1958, Jim Swenson valued the chain of generosity, and Jim and Susan practiced philanthropy through their gifts to various organizations to keep the chain active. The Swenson family continues their philanthropic efforts with their generous support for the Chapman University community, as well as other organizations that further science and engineering education and support children’s health, among other causes. 

“Meeting the Swenson family left me with a sense of immense gratitude. To meet them and share my experience and research, I knew it was nothing short of special. The Swenson Family Hall feels more personal now that I can attach a family and a mission now that I had the chance to meet them,” shared electrical engineering major Matt Shugarte. 

Engineering student Matt Shugarte meeting Susan Swenson.

Matt Shugarte, Electrical Engineering ’24, meeting Susan Swenson, president of the Swenson Family Foundation.

Computer science major and M.S. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science student, Olivia Chilvers recalls setting up circuit boards and 3D printers alongside faculty and industry representatives during the opening of the Swenson Family Hall of Engineering. “I have been fortunate to have helpful professors who encourage me every day in class. Thank you for all of the support that has given me and other students the ability to pursue our career goals while being around some of the best people,” shared Chilvers. 

From the first day the Swenson Family Hall of Engineering opened its doors three years ago, the Chapman community has flourished from the impact of the building. From innovative learning in our state-of-the-art research labs to the thrilling environment of our Makerspacethe Swenson family has helped facilitate a culture of innovation. 

Read more about the Swenson Family and their support for the next generation of problem-solvers.