A memorial service to celebrate the life of Stephen Swope, 68, was held January 8, 2005, at the Yacht Club in Riverside, Conn., where Stephen and his wife, Susan, lived on and off since 1965. He died December 8, 2004, of acute myelogenous leukemia in Seattle. He had battled the disease for over a year, ending up with what appeared to be a successful stem cell transplant, only to have the cancer suddenly roar back and take his life.
The memorial at the yacht club was a fitting site for a man whose life was to a large extent extracurricular in focus. Participants from different walks of life spoke to the unique person Stephen was and to the importance he played in the lives of so many.
Stephen, a member of Alpha Delta Phi, graduated two years later than our class (his “time out” having something to do with a sawn telephone pole). After receiving his MBA from New York University, he had a successful business career on Wall Street with important stints in both London and Tokyo, serving as manager of the Kidder Peabody Asian office. However, it was outside the business world where his life took on special meaning – to himself, his family and the many friends he interacted with along the way.
Stephen was an accomplished sailor, whether it be frostbite dinghy racing, offshore competitions in his beloved yacht, “Seraphos,” or simply cruising the Baltic Seas with compatriots of his adopted Royal Scandinavian Yacht Clubs and the Nylandska Yaktklubben, of which he was post captain of the North American Station.
Stephen devoted considerable time and interest in helping promote sailing activities between the United States and the Scandinavian countries, especially with young people, whom he tutored and encouraged, Said one speaker, “Our lives were enriched because of his passion.” One of his U.S. sailing friends spoke to the “pleasure of being shipmate with Steve” and noted “his complete confidence on board, his seamanship, his wonderful warm smile and satisfaction of task, and his modest, tactful way of expressing the skipper’s decisions.”
Skiing was a second love, the steeper and the deeper the better. Alta and Taos were two of his favorites destinations, where he and Susan led many expeditions of friends and family, the Clarks and the Petersons included. At Taos, he introduced us to the Texas two-step, New Mexico-style, and one band in particular that made each evening as much fun as the day of skiing.
Stephen had two other interests that proved the value of his many friendships and personal talents, especially in fundraising and trusteeship. He served on the Tabor Academy board with his brother, John, Amherst ’60. And he was significantly involved with the Teatown Lake Reservation in Ossining, NY, the nature preserve that is on land donated by Stephen’s late grandfather, Gerard Swope, former head of General Electric.
Tabor’s headmaster talked to Stephen’s “interest in Tabor's present and future and its potential,” avoiding
the tendency of many alumni to dwell on the past. He recalled a conversation with Stephen shortly before he died, where Stephen told him he had “lived a charmed life.” He commented on Stephen’s “understated and most dignified way of looking at the future” and how he enjoyed “a metaphorical way of looking at life,” what Stephen said was a “nostalgia for the future.”
Perhaps his most significant contribution, from a personal point of view, was helping Teatown go through a recent restructuring and financial upgrading, in which Stephen was a prime mover. The director of the preserve noted Stephen’s “rare quality of not drawing attention to himself, rather to what was being seen and experienced.” His hobby of painting, which he took up later in life, and his excellent photography
reflected this characteristic.
Common to all the commentary at the memorial was Stephen’s mischievous sense of humor, what one speaker called his “soft charisma,” and his generous spirit, devotion to friends, compassion and zest for life. These were the hallmarks of a full life and qualities that will keep Stephen dear to his friends’ hearts forever.
In addition to his wife, Stephen is survived by three children: Stephen Swope Jr. of Seattle, Lindsey Swope (Amherst '86) of Carton, WA, and Andrea Swope (Amherst '89) of Seattle; two brothers; and three grandchildren.
– Nils Peterson '58 and Allen Clark '58