A Colorful Life

Through giving, Dr. Phyllis Swanson supports education and community needs

By Susie Steckner

At a time when women did not yet pursue degrees in the sciences, teach at the university level or advance into leadership positions, Dr. Phyllis Swanson did all three.

A pioneer in her field, she enjoyed a decades-long career doing what she loved – teaching medical students and being involved with young people.

In retirement, the Grandview Terrace resident is grateful to have a range of different passions to pursue. Whether honing her skills as an artist, leading group discussions or supporting the employee scholarship program, Phyllis is thankful for the supportive environment that has enabled her to “flourish” since moving into the community.

“I find that I have been as productive as I have ever been in any other 10-year period of my life,” Phyllis says.

That’s saying something.

A committed and driven student early on, Phyllis ultimately earned a Ph.D. in physiology. She launched a career as a university professor and enjoyed teaching at two medical schools over three decades.

Through the years, women often thanked the pioneer for helping pave the way for their education and career opportunities.

Phyllis also devoted herself to being a wife and mother. She and her first husband raised two children together until he passed away. When Phyllis remarried, she welcomed eight stepchildren into her life.

Phyllis relocated to Sun City West in 1987 and has been a Grandview Terrace resident for 10 years. For the past two years, she has lived in one of the community’s assisted living residences.

Phyllis has focused her time at Grandview Terrace on the arts, education and giving back to the community.

With the help of CNA Mark Evertsen, Phyllis has created dozens of paintings, and has donated many to residents and employees. She has also enjoyed leading current events discussions.

For three years, Phyllis served as president of the Grandview Terrace Scholarship committee, which provides educational scholarships to employees. Since the program’s inception in 2001, donors have given more than $500,000 to support the scholarships.

Phyllis and her committee served as an example and model for Sun Health’s sister communities, and now The Colonnade and La Loma Village have similar programs.

Phyllis has personally supported the scholarship program with a unique gift to Sun Health Foundation, a pledge from the earnings of her retirement fund for as long as she lives.

Similar endowments can also be established to ensure support of other vital programs, says Pamela Kohnen, senior development director for the Foundation.

Sun Health Foundation donors have funded nursing education since 1980. Last year, the Foundation awarded $200,000 in scholarships to nurses and aspiring nurses.

In the past, friends of Sun Health have established endowment gifts, which provide continued support from the earnings. Community Wellness programs, which run the gamut from diabetes management classes to the memory care navigator program and scholarship programs, have benefited from this type of generosity.

Phyllis says she chooses to support the employee scholarship program to show her appreciation for her quality of life at Grandview Terrace and Sun Health’s “responsiveness and consistent efforts” to meet the needs of the residents.

“Whenever you’re in a community and receiving the things that the community does for you,” she says, “you should return the favor.”

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