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Focus on Faculty: John Swiger

Professor John Swiger brings more than a world of knowledge to the classroom. He brings a decade of real world experience in business.

When Swiger started a San Antonio leasing company in 1980, he began the venture with a PhD in finance and an undergraduate degree in marketing/economics. He quickly learned that multiple degrees were not sufficient to succeed.

No one taught Swiger how manage a business or how to borrow money when financing needs resulting from growth exceeded the firm's limited capital. He had to learn that -- and a lot more -- on his own.

Swiger shares with his students the mistakes he made in business as well as lessons learned – not from books but the workplace.

“Books try to cover so much territory,” he says. “But there’s a lot they don’t tell you, like how to negotiate a credit line with a bank or how to collect money from customers.”

There were years he had to do many negotiations.

“I had to borrow millions of dollars to keep the company going and growing. I had to learn how to do collections. When people didn’t pay up, I had to get them to pay up. I had to make decisions in many cases whether we should extend credit to a particular customer or not. There were a lot of things I had to learn. When I came to the classroom, I had real world experience, which I think is important.”

Swiger sold his leasing company in 1986 but remained president until 1990 as the new owners took the firm national. In 1990, he began teaching at Our Lady of the Lake University as an associate professor. Outside the Lake, he provides economic and financial analysis to businesses, law firms and government agencies. His clients have included the Estate and Gift Division of the Internal Revenue Service, USAA and Mission City Management as well as several well-known law firms. He was recently involved as an expert financial witness for a Miami law firm that successfully won a $195,000,000 judgment against Nicolas Landes, former president of Banco Popular del Ecuador and Vision Investment.

We recently sat down with John to ask about his career:

What courses do you teach?

I am teaching international finance, financial institutions and markets, both graduate courses, and resource management, in the PhD Leadership Studies program.

How are students different today than when you started in 1990?

At the undergraduate level, you have to work harder to keep students engaged. It’s nothing against the students. It’s a comment on our culture, which has so much more information and technology, so many more things competing for students’ attention. In 1990, for example, we didn’t have laptops.

What did you do after you sold your leasing company?

I stayed on as President with the new ownership until 1990. We had clients in seven states. But then a bigger company came and bought it and moved it to Georgia. I didn’t want to move to Georgia.

What kind of consultant work do you do outside the University?

I do a lot of work with attorneys in wrongful death and injury cases and also in valuation and tort cases. When a person gets hit by a truck and is killed or injured, you have to determine the economic value of a life. I testify in court as an ‘expert witness.’

What kind of students do you teach today?

I primarily teach adult students, the majority of whom have a job. They’re enhancing human capital, the value of educational attainment.

What are some of your former students doing?

One student who got an MBA was also a cardiac nurse and started a PPO for heart patients. Another MBA student got a position with the U.S. Treasury Department. A third MBA student has a chain of successful medical clinics. A number of my former students are medical doctors. One MBA student, whose family had a chain of restaurants specializing in seafood, branched out and started a very successful chain of Greek restaurants. Several of our MBA graduates now have high management positions at USAA. I am very proud of our student successes in the business environment.

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