John A. Swanson Is Honored as 2015 Legacy Laureate

Issue Date: 
October 26, 2015

The University of Pittsburgh has named John A. Swanson a 2015 Legacy Laureate, an honor which recognizes alumni for their outstanding professional and personal accomplishments and service to the community. Swanson, who earned his PhD in engineering at Pitt in 1966, was honored during a dinner celebration hosted by Chancellor Patrick Gallagher on Oct. 8.

Swanson is recognized internationally as an authority and innovator in the application of finite-element methods, or FEM, to engineering. FEM is a mathematical technique used to predict the response of structures and materials to environmental factors. In 1970, he founded ANSYS, Inc., which markets the ANSYS software code that he developed for use by engineers and designers. The product is intended to optimize product-development processes in the aerospace, automotive, biomedical, manufacturing, and electronics industries by simulating how product designs will behave in actual work environments.

The recipient of numerous awards and honors, Swanson received the 2004 American Association of Engineering Societies’ John Fritz Medal, widely considered the highest award in the engineering profession. Prior awardees of the medal include Orville Wright, Alexander Graham Bell, Alfred Nobel, Thomas Edison, Guglielmo Marconi, and George Westinghouse.

In 2009, Swanson was named to the National Academy of Engineering.  He is also a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), which honored him with the ASME President’s Award in 2006 for significant contributions to the engineering profession. ASME also awarded Swanson prestigious Honorary Membership in 2003, its Applied Mechanics Award in 1998, and named him Pittsburgh Engineer of the Year in 1987.

At Pitt, Swanson—who was named a Pitt School of Engineering Distinguished Alumnus in 1998—established the John A. Swanson Institute for Technical Excellence, which houses the John A. Swanson Center for Micro and Nano Systems; the John A. Swanson Center for Product Innovation; the RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) Center of Excellence; and the John A. Swanson Embedded Computing Laboratory in Computer Engineering, among other significant gifts. 

The University of Pittsburgh renamed its engineering school the John A. Swanson School of Engineering in 2007 in recognition of Swanson and his support—the greatest generosity by an individual donor in Pitt’s history at that point in time. He is a longtime member of the Cathedral of Learning Society, which recognizes individuals who have donated $1 million or more to the University. 

In addition to his many generous contributions to Pitt, Swanson and his wife, Janet, actively support many higher education and animal welfare organizations. 

Swanson has served on Pitt’s Board of Trustees since 2006. On May 2, 2010, he delivered Pitt’s commencement address and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree.