A 1956 Catawba College alumnus and six-time U.S. Ambassador, William Lacy Swing, received the O.B. Michael Award for 2012 at the college's 10 a.m. commencement exercise on May 12.
Swing, a native of Lexington, N.C., has enjoyed a long career at the U.S. Department of State, serving as a six-time ambassador and managing some of the largest diplomatic missions and foreign development and humanitarian aid programs in two hemispheres. He has served as Ambassador to Congo-Brazzaville, Liberia, South Africa, Nigeria, Haiti, and Congo-Kinshasa. He currently lives in Geneva, Switzerland, where he serves as the Director General of the International Organization for Migration.
The O. B. Michael Award has been presented annually since 1938 by the Catawba College Board of Directors of the Alumni Association. It is given to a graduate of the College who has made an outstanding contribution to the College and/or the larger society. Originally called the Citizenship Cup, it was established by the Reverend O.B. Michael, Class of 1919, in memory of his father, an alumnus of Catawba College and pioneer teacher and preacher.
While a student at Catawba, Swing earned his bachelor's degree with three majors — one in religion and philosophy, one in English and one in history. He graduated from Catawba magna cum laude and went on to Yale University where he earned a bachelor of divinity degree. He completed post-graduate studies at Tubingen University in Germany and at Harvard University.
When he served as the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Swing successfully led all facets of the largest UN peacekeeping operation in history. Prior to his work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he served from 2001 to 2003 as the Special Representative to the Secretary-General for Western Sahara and Chief of the Mission for the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara. His diplomatic assignments in countries facing significant migration movements gave him a deep understanding of the many factors affecting international migration.