Virginia Western presents 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award to Dr. Carol Swain

Virginia Western Community College > News from Virginia Western > Educational Foundation > Virginia Western presents 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award to Dr. Carol Swain

The Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation has recognized Dr. Carol Swain (’78), a Vanderbilt University professor of political science and law, as recipient of its 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award. Dr. Swain was honored March 22 at Virginia Western’s Annual Scholarship and Awards Ceremony.

Dr. Swain is a nationally recognized author, public speaker and political commentator, and the author or editor of seven books. Her scholarly work has been cited in two Supreme Court cases; her fields include race relations, immigration, representation and evangelical politics.

Dr. Swain was born in impoverished conditions in Bedford as the second of 12 children. She dropped out of high school in the ninth grade but later received her GED and enrolled at Virginia Western Community College. After graduating from Virginia Western with an associate’s degree in business merchandising, Dr. Swain earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Roanoke College (’83, magna cum laude), a master’s degree in political science from Virginia Tech (’84), a doctorate in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (’89) and a Master of Studies in Law degree from Yale University (’00).

As a student at Virginia Western, Dr. Swain fondly recalled working at Brown Library and receiving encouragement from then-library director David Hillman to further pursue her education.

“Virginia Western’s faculty and administrators helped create the conditions for my success,” Dr. Swain said. “I was able to work full-time nights and weekends at Brown Library while I attended college full-time at Roanoke College. The encouragement I received from David Hillman was instrumental in my decision to pursue graduate school rather than settle for a position as a library assistant. Had he not encouraged me to continue my education, I might still be a library assistant.”

Swain’s first book, “Black Faces, Black Interests: The Representation of African Americans in Congress (Harvard University Press),” won the Woodrow Wilson prize for the best book published in the U.S. on government, politics or international affairs in 1994, and was cited by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in Johnson v. DeGrandy and by Justice Sandra Day O’ Connor in Georgia v. Ashcroft.

Her other books include “Be the People: A Call to Reclaim America’s Faith and Promise (Thomas Nelson Press),” “Debating Immigration (Cambridge University Press)” and “The New White Nationalism in America: Its Challenge to Integration (Cambridge University Press),” which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.  She is co-author of “Abduction: How Liberalism Steals Our Children’s Hearts and Minds (Christian Faith Publishing, 2016).”

Dr. Swain’s opinion pieces have been published in CNN Online, The Financial Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times and USA Today. She has appeared on ABC Headline News, BBC Radio, NPR, CNN’s AC360, Fox News’ Hannity, Fox and Friends, Lou Dobbs Tonight, The PBS NewsHour and The Washington Journal.

She has served on the Tennessee Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She is a foundation member of the Virginia Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. Before joining Vanderbilt in 1999, Dr. Swain was a tenured associate professor of politics and public policy at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

“We are especially proud to honor a Virginia Western graduate who has achieved such a significant scholarly career,” said Dr. Robert H. Sandel, president of Virginia Western Community College. “Dr. Swain has devoted herself to advancing her education and setting a positive example for others.”

Established in 2006 by the Virginia Western Alumni Association, the Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes Virginia Western Community College alumni and former students who have attained extraordinary distinction in their professional field or life and serves to honor all the men and women whose attendance at Virginia Western helped them achieve their educational and professional goals allowing them to better serve their communities.


Prior Distinguished Alumni honorees: 

2016 – Dr. Mary Loritsch (’74) and Chief Michael Crawley

2015 – Debbie Yancey (’97)

2014 – Chief Craig S. Harris (’00) and J. David Wine (’73)

2013 – Cheryl Cunningham (’86)

2012 – Anne Hogan (’76)

2011 – Carolyn Webster (’81)

2010 – Russell H. Ellis (’80)

2009 – Shirl D. Lamanca (’75) and Dennis R. Cronk (’72)

2008 – Donna L. Mitchell (’81)

2007 – Dr. Kent A. Murphy and Charlotte C. Tyson (’84)

2006 – John B. Williamson III (’75)

For more information on the Virginia Western Alumni Association, see or contact Donor Relations Coordinator Amanda Mansfield at or (540) 857-6962.

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