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Innovator Swanson to receive Engineering alumni award

John A. Swanson ’61, M.Eng. ’63, an innovator in the application of finite-element methods of engineering, will be honored with the 2021 Cornell Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award in recognition of his extraordinary leadership, vision and the distinction he has brought to the college.

Swanson will be presented the award by Lynden Archer, the Joseph Silbert Dean of Engineering, in an on-campus ceremony Oct. 14.

John A. Swanson ’61, M.Eng. ’63, and Janet Swanson.

Elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2009, Swanson is founder and former president and CEO of ANSYS Inc. Founded in 1970 as Swanson Analysis Systems Inc., ANSYS develops and globally markets engineering simulation software and technologies used by engineers and designers across a broad spectrum of industries.

Swanson has won the American Association of Engineering Societies John Fritz Medal, the Computers in Engineering Award and the Pittsburgh Entrepreneur of the Year in High Technology, among other awards.

After selling ANSYS in 1994, Swanson focused on engineering education and the training of future generations of practicing engineers. He founded the Swanson Engineering Simulation Program at Cornell, and joined the Engineering College Council. More recently, he has shifted his attention to renewable energy, including solar and bio-diesel enterprises.

He is a developer of Green Key Villages in Lady Lake, Florida, the only “net zero energy” home development in the area.

Swanson received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Cornell, and his Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh, where the Swanson School of Engineering is named in recognition of his involvement and support. He began his career in 1963 at Westinghouse Astronuclear Laboratory, but left in 1969 and founded Swanson Analysis Systems the following year.

Swanson and his wife, Janet, are among Cornell’s foremost benefactors. They have given generously to the College of Engineering and the College of Veterinary Medicine, with gifts to programs – including Engineering Student Project Teams – faculty support, scholarships and capital projects.

Amy Horner works for Alumni Affairs and Development.

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Jeff Tyson