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Spring 2011

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BY SUZY FRISCH

How a surprise revelation about the past helped motivate a couple to expand their support of the Carlson School.

Businesswoman Mary Green Swig believed she knew the details of her late mother’s life: that she studied literature at the University of Minnesota, enjoyed reading and writing, and was a very bright mother of five children. But she learned a whole lot more after making a connection with the University.
Mary Green Swig quote        First, Swig and her husband, Steve, provided financial support for a Nepalese friend to earn his doctorate at the University. Then they decided to make a gift in honor of Mary’s mother, Christina Chaffee Davey. A little bit of digging by a development officer discovered some surprising facts: Davey was months away from graduating from the University in 1939 with a degree in business when she left school. She previously had told Swig that she dropped out mid-semester, taking incompletes, because she didn’t want to have more of an education than her husband.
        “I never knew she had gone to business school,” says Swig, who founded and serves as president and CEO of Mary Green, a San Francisco–based apparel company. “I have no idea why she changed from English to business. But I know she raised a daughter who is very entrepreneurial. After I found this out, I thought, ‘My gosh, did it come from her?’ It’s such a wonderful gift.”
        The Swigs are quite an entrepreneurial couple. Mary launched her company more than 30 years ago and turned it into a global designer and manufacturer of high-end apparel. Steve, an attorney, cofounded and serves as president emeritus of the Presidio Graduate School, a San Francisco institution that offers MBAs and master’s degrees in public administration with a focus on sustainability.
        Throughout her years in business, Swig has hired people from around the world, including refugees from Burma, Vietnam, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria.
        When the Swigs heard about Carlson Net Impact, they knew they found the perfect fit for their financial support; the organization focuses on using business to create a more socially and environmentally sustainable world. “Net Impact just spoke to us,” she says, adding that it’s also an ideal way to honor her mother. “Students are going out into areas where there are large immigrant populations and helping them figure out how to do business and make it work. How cool is that?”

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