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Florine Mary Schulte Swanson

2019 Iowa Women's Hall of Fame Honoree: Florine Mary Schulte Swanson

“Woven throughout these activities, 4-H and other rural programs have been a constant for Florine, from the local to the international levels. Whatever the program, she was a teacher, a coach, and organizer, facilitating the program so that others could participate and grow. When she was out of her home state, she was always, among her other endeavors, the proud Iowa Farmer, proclaiming the virtues of the great agricultural contributions from Iowa, and especially her beloved Iowa State University that have made a difference in the world.”

--Written by Kathleen Wood Laurila, in a letter of support

Florine Mary Schulte Swanson

Florine Mary Schulte Swanson was born on September 26, 1942, in Cedar Rapids and grew up on a farm outside of Norway, Iowa. Throughout her youth, Florine was very active in her local 4-H club and in various leadership capacities as a student at Iowa State University where Florine graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Home Economics Education in August 1964. She then married Ronald Swanson and found herself back on the farm in Wright County, Iowa, where they raised three sons.

Her professional career restarted when her children went to college. She started as a program assistant at Iowa State University with Women in Science and Engineering in 1986. In that position, she developed the prototype for the first “Taking the Road Less Traveled” career day for girls on the campus of Iowa State University. She also established the first data bank of professional women in science and engineering in Iowa. Her next career change took her back to her 4-H roots when she became Executive Director of the Iowa 4-H Foundation where she previously served as a trustee for eleven years. Her responsibilities included the coordination of a 40-member board. She was the director from 1987 to 2005. The organization went from being nearly bankrupt to an annual budget of nearly two million dollars and increased assets seven-fold. Her fundraising experience increased the database from a couple hundred individuals to over 25,000 individuals. This increased fund raising base allowed 4-H to continue offering camping and educational programs to young people in Iowa as well as awarding over $100,000 in college scholarships annually to former 4-H’ers.

As a volunteer, she has been very active and committed to the American Association of University Women (AAUW). She joined her local branch over 50 years ago and served in many of the local elected offices, including three times as branch president. Her demonstrated leadership skills resulted in her serving on the Iowa board for 15 years which included being elected President of the Iowa board in 1984-86. She moved to the national level of AAUW as chair of the Research and Projects Committee. She continued her commitment to helping women by serving on the board of AAUW Educational Foundation, as the Upper Midwest Regional Director, and on the AAUW Association board. Her fundraising skills were put to good use as she chaired two major national gift campaigns for AAUW, including the Founding Leader’s Campaign and Breaking through Barriers Campaign.

Florine’s international leadership roles include serving on the Board of Directors of the Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund (VGIF). In 2006, Florine was elected as the founding president of Graduate Women-USA, an affiliate of Graduate Women International (GWI). She promoted women through GWI as she participated in the Base Camp for Women in Developing Countries at the 1998 Conference in Austria and as a voting delegate to the Mexico conference in 2012. Her work in the U.S. has included serving at the U.N. Commission of the Status of Women Conference as a GWI delegate and giving a workshop on Women in Agriculture in 2012.

In 2010 Drexel University selected Florine as one of two women delegates from Iowa for Vision 2020. Each delegate was to select a project on equity for women. In collaboration with Phyllis Peters, former Chair of the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women, it was determined that the Friends of the Commission would fund a graduate student at the Carrie Chapman Catt Center at Iowa State University to create a base line on the number of counties and cities in Iowa who had gender equity in all key appointed boards and commissions. Since then the data has been gathered several times. After each update, Florine visited those county boards of supervisors (7) and city councils (over 30) that achieved the goal of gender equity. She presented certificates of recognition, press releases, and did radio and newspaper interviews to highlight these governments achieving gender equity. Her project was highlighted at the National Conference of Vision 2020 in Portland.