Mike Swoboda and I pledged Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity in Rolla in the fall of 1956. Mike was voted in as chapter president in his sophomore year: An unusual move at that time.
He quickly consolidated his leadership team and our fraternity began to move up in all aspects of our activities and in prestige on campus. Bob Elrod, CerE’63, was the chapter treasurer and Mike would have Elrod announce all the moves and changes that might be controversial. Poor Elrod was his lightning rod but they made a good team. Mike led our fraternity to high respect on campus in his two years as president.
We shared a great love for sport and competition. Mike’s primary sport was tennis but he became a very effective player in flag football, volleyball, basketball, and softball (fast pitch). At one point we did not have a good pitcher so Mike and I went up to one of the local school play grounds that had a backstop fence and took turns trying to learn to pitch using the classic windmill motion of fast pitch softball. Neither of us could master it.
Though we were about the same height, Mike was a spiker and I was his setter in volleyball. He was left handed and not an overpowering spiker but enormously effective. Mike had that rare ability to think in the middle of a competitive event and would sense where the defense was and direct the ball away. His dinks scored as often as his slams.
Once I came into his room and it happened to be election night. Mike had two yellow legal pads on his desk and was listening intently to the radio. On the pads were the names of all the Senators and Governors running for office and he was keeping tally with a pencil.
He loved the political process and particularly loved small town politics. He eventually got his dream job, Mayor of Kirkwood, and he brought to it the same skills that make him so effective as a fraternity president. Mike would always do all of the grunt work to secure and know where all of his votes were. Folks who found themselves on the opposite side of an issue from Mike rarely were willing to put in the time and effort that Mike did regularly. As a result they regularly lost and Mike won setting up some long standing resentments.
But one could never question where Mike’s heart was. He was determined to be the very best mayor that a town ever had… And he was. I keep thinking of that song “Jimmy Walker loved New York… “Well Michael E. Swoboda really loved Kirkwood and served his town well.
Michael C. Kearney, EE’60, Kirkwood, Mo.
Kearney is a fraternity brother of late Kirkwood, Mo., Mayor Mike Swoboda, ME’60, who died Sept. 6 as a result of injuries suffered in the Kirkwood City Hall shootings of Feb. 7, 2008.