ARSCSE President’s Award for Outstanding Community Service Nomination:
William (Bill) Swern

Since Bill Swern retired from SCS in 1980 he has not stopped. Never one to sit back and let others do the work, Bill’s lifestyle over the past 26 years gives new meaning to the phrase "a rolling stone gathers no moss!" During his 31 year career Bill worked for the Soil Conservation Service as a soil conservationist, district conservationist, and RC&D coordinator serving in several locations throughout Indiana. Always a volunteer at heart, Bill has found lots of ways to stay active by serving the community and people he loves.

As a long term member of the Soil and Water Conservation Society, Bill became the local Chapter’s administrative secretary-treasurer in 1983. He held that position until 1999. Under his leadership, the Chapter gained its standing as a 501c3, not-for-profit Corporation. Bill has served on several committees, but perhaps his most significant accomplishment was to serve as the Chapter’s historian and compile and publish the first Chapter History (1987). Bill has received numerous awards for his service, including the Hoosier Chapter President’s award in 1990, 1994, and 1998, the International SWCS Commendation Awards in 1988 and 1992 and the Society’s prestigious Honor Award in 1999.

In 1983 Bill also became an Associate supervisor with the Parke County SWCD. As a supervisor, Bill developed the Parke County Nature Newsletter, which has now been adopted by a nine-county region (Sycamore Trails RC&D) and is called Boofo. The newsletter goes to all 5th graders in 9 counties reaching thousands of homes each year. At the SWCD’s annual meeting this year, Bill received the Distinguished Service Award for his valuable lifetime contributions to working and promoting conservation and activities of the SWCD. A red oak tree was recently planting at the Rockville Lake Park with an engraved plaque honoring him.

Bill has been an Earth Team volunteer for 17 years donating hundreds of hours of service to the Parke County Soil and Water Conservation District and the NRCS office. Each year he contributes over 100 hours of service helping with field days, photography, talking with farmers, and whatever needs to be done.

For his outstanding community service to the Parke County Historical Society, Bill was honored in 1993 with the prestigious Jefferson Award for Outstanding Community Service presented locally by the Indianapolis Star. Bill was one of 10 outstanding public service volunteers from Indiana and was subsequently nominated for the national award. (The Jefferson Awards for Public Service were founded in 1972 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, U.S. Senator Robert Taft, Jr. and Sam Beard to create a Nobel Prize for public and community service – the awards are presented on two levels: national and local.) In 1982, Bill conceived and put together a slide show for the society that was used at numerous events throughout the eighties. Bill has served as the Society’s treasurer for over 20 years, helping with annual fund raising events and writing articles for the quarterly newsletter. He has been one of the Society’s most dedicated champions, working quietly behind the scenes as he always tries to do. One of the most significant accomplishments of Bill’s involvement in the Historical Society was to help establish an endowment fund with the local Community Foundation, which is properly named "The William Swern Fund." At a ceremony in April 2009, the Historical Society honored Bill with the "Crooks-Davis Award," in recognition of his many years of service and his dedication to the preservation of Parke County's history.

Bill has been very involved in the Sycamore Trails RC&D council’s forestry committee, promoting outdoor labs for schools, producing spot announcements for radio, assisting in timber stand improvement days to raise funds.

As the county’s 4-H Photography Project Leader from 1983 to 1993 Bill held many photography camps and produced videos to highlight 4-H activities for the county fair. In 1991, Bill was named Outstanding Parke County 4-H Leader. Bill provides students gentle encouragement to better themselves through education. He has been quoted as saying, "I just encourage them to work hard at whatever they do, however menial the tasks. I think they need to dream big and work hard toward that dream. I try to impress upon them that they don’t have problems, they only have challenges and opportunities."

The Rockville Rotary Club awarded Bill the Paul Harris Fellow Award in 1990 (the highest honor a club can bestow on a member). He has served on the Club’s Board of Directors, Co-chaired their annual pancake breakfast event, initiated the Club’s recycling program, and actively participated in the annual Rotary Youth in Government Day (where the top 8 students in each high school spend the day learning about local government agencies and how government functions).

Bill has been a faithful member of the Rockville United Methodist Church and has served on its Board of Trustees for two terms, a total of six years.

During the past decade, Bill has remained active in both membership and service to a variety of community groups such as the Ag Day Committee, the Rockville School Improvement Committee, the Parke County Woodworkers, the County Park Board, and working at the Annual Parke County Maple Syrup Fair.

A graduate of Purdue University in 1949 with a degree in Agriculture, Bill was awarded the Purdue Ag Alumni Association Certificate of Distinction Award in 2000.

All told, Bill has donated thousands of hours as a volunteer over the past quarter of a century to his community and to the advancement of conservation, never expecting any recognition—just doing what is important to him. His accomplishments will leave a legacy for the next generation in caring for our natural resources and valuing our local and state history. It is an honor to nominate Bill for the Outstanding Community Service Award. He is exactly the kind of person that deserves the recognition of his peers in ARSCSE.

Former ARSCSE President and NRCS Indiana state conservationist Robert Eddleman says, "Bill Swern represents all that is good about America. He cares for people and the land that supports people. His life has been devoted to helping others understand these concepts."

Bill may have slowed down a bit in the past couple of years, but he continues to make a difference in his community and in the state each and every day.