A Family of Graduates

When John (BS ‘76) and Cathy Swendsen (BS ‘79) came to Provo from Calgary, Alberta, to attend BYU, they didn’t realize that they were starting a family tradition that would last for decades to come. Cathy enrolled at BYU in 1973, and John joined her in 1974, after returning from his mission. The two courted, married, and had their first daughter, Jennifer, during their time at BYU.

Over the next forty years, each of their seven children would follow in their parents’ footsteps as BYU students. Four of their children’s spouses are BYU graduates as well, with one more son-in-law to graduate in 2017. “What started as a young girl heading off to BYU in the early 70s became a family tradition that saw someone from our family at BYU almost continuously from 1994 to 2016,” Cathy says, “John graduated in 1976 and our youngest, Rachel, graduates forty years later in 2016!”

Today John and Cathy live in Calgary, where John works as vice chairman of the National Bank of Canada, Corporate and Investment Banking. Their children have moved on to build their families and careers in various parts of the world, from Arizona to Saudi Arabia. But no matter the distance, their BYU roots remain strong. “It is more complicated to apply for BYU as international students and has been at times much more costly because of exchange rates,” Cathy remarks, “But because we are so committed to BYU this is really the only place all our children wanted to attend.  We are true blue, through and through!”

Jennifer Swendsen Sherwood (BS '98). Dan Swendsen (BS '02). Scott Swendsen (BS '04), Brian Swendsen (BA '08), Karen Swendsen Sandstrom (BS '09), Laura Swendsen Checketts (BS '12), Rachel Swendsen Gee (BS '16)  

Full Name: 
John W. and Cathy Low Swendsen
Grad Year: 
BSE 1976, BS 1979
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