Skip to content
  • Print


W.R. Swagerty's Biography

Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1951, Bill Swagerty grew up in the ranching community of Union County, distinguished by its dearth of people and trees and its large population of cattle. A graduate of public schools, Swagerty began his college life as a music major, but social science professors at The Colorado College refocused his direction, leading to a History degree in 1973. 

Three years at U.C. Santa Barbara on the beach and in graduate classes convinced him he needed to find fellowships or employment.  The Newberry Library in Chicago provided both. He lived in the Windy City for five years, serving as Associate Director of the Center for the History of the American Indian.  Returning to the West in 1982, Swagerty taught at University of Idaho prior to joining Pacific's faculty in 2001 to direct the John Muir Center for Environmental Studies.

Pacific and the Swagerty family have a long association, going back to the 1930s when two of Bill's relatives, Clem and Floyd Swagerty, played football under coach Amos Alonzo Stagg. Other Swagertys who have attended Pacific include basketball-star Keith Swagerty, swimmer and Olympic medalist Jane Swagerty-Hill, and teacher Donna Swagerty-Shreve. Bill's mother, Eunice Thomas-Swagerty, attended in the 1940s.  In all, thirteen relatives have claimed Pacific as their alma mater. 

In addition to teaching, his position includes organizing bi-annual conferences, publishing a newsletter, working with visiting scholars interested in John Muir's Papers in the university library, and serving as liaison with Muir family descendants to promote the good name and message of the father of the modern conservation movement.

Swagerty has been a visiting scientist at the National Museum of Natural History and is currently a Fulbright Senior Scholar, visiting New Zealand and Australia in 2007 following John Muir's Trail from his 1903-04 World Tour.  His recent courses have focused on the history of California, the North American Conservation Movement, and the American West.  In addition, Swagerty teaches regularly in the Pacific Seminar series for freshmen and is active in the annual freshman orientation trip to Yosemite National Park each fall.