Distinguished Alumnus Award honors the late Marvin M. Schwan

From left: President Dan Bruss, Alfred Schwan, and commencement speaker Rev. Larry Burgdorf. (2008)
From left: President Dan Bruss, Alfred Schwan, and commencement speaker Rev. Larry Burgdorf. (2008)

The Schwan Food Company is well known in the Bethany community. Not only is the company famous for its ice cream and delivery trucks, but it is also known to the College for another reason.

Marvin M. Schwan, founder and late president of the Schwan Food Company, was more than just a businessman—he was a strong Christian who was dedicated to spreading the Gospel.

At the Bethany commencement ceremony on May 16, 2008, Schwan, a 1949 graduate of Bethany Lutheran College, was honored with the Distinguished Alumnus Award for his generosity toward the college and his dedication to the work of the Church throughout his life. His brother and business partner, Alfred Schwan, accepted the award on behalf of the Schwan family.

Schwan spoke fondly about his brother, pointing out that Marvin was very humble and always wanted the focus to be on the One Thing Needful rather than on himself.

From the beginning of his career, Marvin Schwan showed generosity toward Bethany. He began by sending ice cream to the Bethany food service. In 1969, he helped establish the first Reserve Fund, which helped Bethany earn North Central Accreditation. Later on, Schwan helped plan and fund the construction of the Ylvisaker Fine Arts Center. Not only did he give gifts to the college during this time, but he also challenged his fellow alumni to donate as well.

Schwan’s generosity toward Bethany is apparent not only in the physical expansion of the campus, but also in the way he supported scholarship funds, faculty development, and endowments. He helped motivate Bethany to work for a broader support base so that the institution could survive into the twenty-first century.

Aside from the support he gave to Bethany, Schwan funded mission work in countries around the world as well as home missions.

As his brother Alfred explained, “Marvin wanted to spread the gospel to people all over the world.” According to Alfred Schwan, the most outstanding thing about Marvin—more outstanding than his business accomplishments and humble nature—was “his tremendous love for his Lord Jesus Christ.”