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Remembering Larry Swanson 1950-2019

Larry was a lover of rural communities and the public lands of the West, and he dedicated his life work to understanding the forces of change on the West. As Director of the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West at the University of Montana, Larry focused his research and teaching on the economies and patterns of growth and change in the region. His research demonstrated the importance of conservation to the vitality of the economies of rural and urban communities alike.  

While leaving this world, Larry expressed his hope for the future in designating Montana Conservation Corps to receive gifts in his honor. Larry visited MCC crews in our earliest days, and witnessed the power of connecting youth to nature through hands-on conservation service to our lands and communities. 

MCC is honored to celebrate Larry’s life through our programs that develop a new generation of young leaders connected to Montana’s outdoor heritage and prepared as stewards to protect his beloved Montana.  


Gifts in memory of Larry Swanson are being accepted by MCC, and all gifts will be recognized to his loving wife, Pam, and children Spencer and Dustin. To make a gift in honor of Larry, please click the donation button and make a note that your gift is dedicated to the memory of Larry Swanson.

"Larry Swanson learned the importance of conservation as a young boy on his family farm in Nebraska. His chosen field of economics was directly reflected by the importance of land and space. It led him to focus on the Rocky Mountain West with an emphasis on the Yellowstone to Yukon region. Larry's groundbreaking development of the READ system of economics has allowed countless communities to improve opportunities for the lives of their citizens. Larry's pioneering spirit in economics and conservation will continue to live through his work and the Montana Conservation Corps."  Bob Frazier, Executive Vice President Emeritus, The University of Montana, and Past Chair of MCC Board of Directors

"Larry was a man of vision. He had the rare ability to connect a sense of place with art, business, agriculture and the landscape. He was called upon to bring communities closer together in their understanding of economic sustainability, the impacts of growth, the connection with the land, and its people. He was an original thinker; he understood the subtle nuances that exist within regional cultures. He uncovered how those nuances connected the health and vitality of a community and the country. Larry was a man of integrity and honor. Those who knew him, will always remember his candid conversation, quick wit and laughter."  Ross Rademacher - Friend

"Larry taught me that loving the Mountain West means being a student of it, constantly working to better understand it, challenging assumptions about it, and communicating the best we can what makes its landscapes and communities so special. His research into the economic dynamics shaping the region brought our narratives closer to the truth. Reverence and curiosity infused that work every day. Kind and loyal to the core, Larry also carried a certain pluck and rebelliousness, qualities this fellow student of the West inherits with great gratitude."  Matthew Frank, Fellow in Regional Journalism at the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West. 

"My favorite Nebraska flatlander found his home in the high plains and mountains of Montana and the Rocky Mountain West. He loved his family, friends and field of research. His clear thinking, dynamic communication, enthusiasm and rigorous intellect were his hallmarks. HIs belief in creating opportunities for future generations is well demonstrated by his long time support for Montana Conservation Corps. Supporting the Corps is a fitting legacy for this great man."  Randy Gray, Retired Attorney and Former Mayor of Great Falls

“Larry was passionate about the West and about using data to understand our region and the trends that will help shape our future.  We all shared his passion and learned from him.  Larry’s engagement with the Montana Conservation Corps expresses his commitment to our future in the West and in Montana in the most practical, tangible way possible.”  Bob Rowe, President and CEO, NorthWestern Energy; Board of Advisors, O’Connor Center for the American West