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Getting to know...Philip Swicegood

Philip Swicegood feels right at home discussing the economic meltdown with three other distinguished panelists at Leonard Auditorium on a Tuesday night. He feels at home casting a fishing line up in Cataloochee Valley on an autumn Saturday. Or reading a C.S. Lewis novel whenever he can squeeze it in. Or even playing ultimate frisbee with his students once or twice a week.

In short, Swicegood is a man who treats life the way he does an investment portfolio, spreading things around to different accounts.

“It keeps me from getting bored,” he says. “It gives life a nice, rich texture with a lot of colors to it.”

swice200Swicegood grew up not too far away from Spartanburg, in the fishing friendly environment just north of Charlotte, N.C. He got his first degree, a major in finance with a minor in philosophy, from Liberty University in Virginia. He obtained an MBA from the University of Texas and then worked for a few years as a bank analyst at the U.S. Treasury Department in Richmond, Va.

“I knew that long term, teaching was my passion, but I wanted a few years of work experience,” he says. “I thought it would make me better in the classroom.”

From there he got a Ph.D. at Florida State before getting his first teaching position at Gardner-Webb University in N.C. He was there for seven years when former (and future) colleague Steve Perry convinced him to look at Wofford. Swicegood knew right away it was a good fit.

“Everything kind of clicked here as to why I’m in academia in the first place,” he says. “I really like the intellectual curiosity here, especially at the professor level, but then that permeates into the classroom as well. Some campuses have that, some don’t. That’s one of the reasons I really liked it here.

“Teaching finance at a liberal arts college adds a whole different dynamic to it that was never in any of my formal training or background. It fits the way I’m hardwired internally, though. I’ve always had a discomfort with the hyperspecialization that some of the disciplines get at bigger schools.”

And getting the most out of said life is something Swicegood attempts to do on a weekly basis.

Although he once taught an Interim class on C.S. Lewis and took his students to Oxford and Cambridge, Lewis is just one of many authors Swicegood enjoys.

“I’ve always been an avid reader,” he says. “I’ve always got three or four books going at any one time. There are some Southern authors I enjoy, like Terry Kay of Georgia. I just love the way these guys frame things. I’m Southern to the core, and I resonate it in a lot of different ways.”

The most obvious way is fishing. It’s another subject he has taught at Interim, and one he says he probably will again soon.

“I love anything that swims. It’s fun trying to figure out how to catch them. It’s not just the fishing itself, though, but going to where they live, especially wild native fish in their little headwater streams where you have to hike for five or six miles to get to. Even if you don’t catch a fish all day, it’s worth it.

“Ninety-five percent of the time I let them go anyway, although really well grilled trout is fabulous.”

He loves salt water fishing, too. Anything with a hook and a line.

“It just nourishes my soul,” he explains.

Whether he’s helping students understand finance, kicking back with a good book or hiking six miles just to wet a line, Swicegood is determined to be anything but the stuffy bow-tie wearing specialist on the subject he teaches.

“It’s one thing to make a living,” he says, “it’s another to make a life.”