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DAA Award Winner: Molly Ann Swart (Smyk), '82

DAA Award Winner: Molly Ann Swart (Smyk), '82

Molly Swart credits her Albion experience as a member of the Ford Institute's first class in 1978 for having a significant role in shaping her world view, her career, and her life. A SOAR leader and Lomas Project 250 Award winner while a student, she says Albion helped provide her with the confidence to pursue and win a $25,000 Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship for study abroad after graduation. That led to two years in Toulouse, France, where she learned more than just the language and culture. That experience set her on her career path in international business.

Swart's life has personified the phrase, "think globally." After a brief stint as a technical interpreter for French foreign trade expositions, Swart joined the French Embassy Trade Office/Ubifrance. Now senior trade advisor there, she serves as the liaison for French industries doing business in the U.S., assisting the companies in attracting and retaining U.S. customers, marketing their products, and organizing banking, tax accounting, immigration, and legal affairs. But it isn't just business; she is a diplomat in many respects. Swart embodies global thinking in all aspects of her life, from hosting French interns in her home to involving high school students in fundraising for various causes.

In honor of her contributions to the French trade ministry, Swart was awarded the Chevalier (Knight) de l'Ordre National du Mérite by the President of France. This is one of the highest civilian honors in France.

Swart acknowledges Albion and specifically the Ford Institute, alongside her family, as catalysts for her dedication to public service and volunteerism. Committed to "giving back," she currently is a Visiting Committee member for the Ford Institute and has participated in regional alumni events. In her community, she has served on the boards of the French American Chamber of Commerce and the International Visitors Council of Metropolitan Detroit, and as the executive director of the French American Automotive Business Association. A past president of the Birmingham Rotary Club, she received a district Presidential Citation from Rotary International. She and her husband, David Smyk, reside in Birmingham, Michigan. They have two children, Mallory and Cameron.

DAA Award Winner: James D. Rogers, '69

DAA Award Winner: James D. Rogers, '69

James Rogers came to Albion knowing he would pursue a career in medicine. How expansive this career would become and how many lives he would touch in the years that followed his graduation were beyond his imagination.

Rogers earned his medical degree from Wake Forest University, where he received the Mosby Award for Scholastic Excellence from the Bowman Gray School of Medicine. He completed surgical residencies at Yale University and New York University. A cardiovascular surgeon, he began his career as an associate professor of surgery for Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and later was an attending surgeon for the St. John's and Cox Medical Centers in Springfield, Missouri. From 1999 to 2007, Rogers was director of cardiovascular surgery at Genesys Regional Medical Center in Grand Blanc, Michigan, and since 2007 he has served as an emergency physician for Mercy Hospital in Grayling, Michigan.

Rogers' military career included serving as a staff surgeon at Walter Reed Army Medical Center during Operation Desert Shield, and on the medical staff for the 148th evacuation hospital of the Arkansas National Guard in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm. Recipient of a U.S. Army Achievement Medal and an Army Commendation Medal, he retired as a lieutenant colonel from the U.S. Army Medical Corps.

Rogers' appreciation for his experience at Albion College is deep and lasting. As a "regular" at the old Eat Shop on Cass Street, he spearheaded the creation of the "new" Eat Shop in the Kellogg Center to include original booths and memorabilia. As a mentor to Albion premedical students, he provided them with an insider's look at medical practice unavailable to most undergraduate students. Many Albion alumni are physicians today because of Jim Rogers' willingness to share his insights and his passion for his work.

He and his wife, Linda, reside in Grand Blanc. They have four children, Kathryn, Taylor, Harry, and Dana.

DAA Award Winner: Douglas R. Armstrong, '88

DAA 13 Picture Armstrong

At the age of 13, Doug Armstrong had an unpaid job developing and filing x-rays at Albion Community Hospital because he was too young to join the hospital’s “red vest” volunteers. Since then, he has continued to follow his passions for medicine and service, saving and enriching the lives of thousands of seriously ill people. 

Armstrong became a licensed emergency medical technician (EMT) even before he graduated from Albion High School, and during his student days at Albion College, he volunteered for the Albion Area Ambulance Service. While earning his bachelor’s degree in nursing at Wayne State University, he worked for the University of Michigan as a transplant organ perfusionist, flying with surgical teams to collect and transport organs. He helped initiate U-M’s clinical transplant research program and served as the assistant director of transplant clinical research and clinical trials manager, a position he held for 13 years.

As a volunteer during this time, Armstrong helped create Camp Michitanki (Michigan Transplant Kids), but quickly realized that complete success of such a program required a custom-designed facility. In 2007, he left transplant research to found and serve as chief executive officer for North Star Reach, a nonprofit now affiliated with Paul Newman’s SeriousFun Children’s Network. Next year, thanks to his leadership and energetic fundraising, North Star Reach will begin construction of a 105-acre camp near Pinckney, for campers ages 7-15 with chronic and life-threatening health challenges. Currently the assistant fire chief for Scio Township Fire Department and a firefighter/paramedic with the Dexter Area Fire Department, he has been honored with a Police and Firefighters Insurance Association Heroes Hall of Fame Award and Washtenaw Area Mutual Aid Association Life Saving Award. After his Albion graduation, Armstrong spent two years traveling with Up with
People. He holds a master’s degree in clinical research design and statistical analysis from the University of Michigan School of Public Health. He is the son of Roberta Armstrong and Robert Armstrong, professor emeritus of chemistry. Armstrong and his wife, Joan Marie, live in Dexter, Michigan with their son, Jackson Douglas.

DAA Award Winner: Martin H. Nesbitt, '85

DAA 13 Picture Nesbitt

He may have grown up in Ohio, but Marty Nesbitt is a true Chicagoan. Beyond meeting his wife and befriending a future U.S. president there, Nesbitt has distinguished himself as both a professional success and an engaged community servant in the Windy City. 

Nesbitt moved to Chicago as a General Motors Fellow, to complete an M.B.A. at the University of Chicago. After earning his degree, he joined the real estate investment company LaSalle Partners, where he became an equity vice president within five years. 

At LaSalle, Nesbitt recognized the resilience of parking as a real estate asset class even during tough economic cycles and the investment opportunities associated with the way the parking industry was structured. This insight led Nesbitt to develop The Parking Spot, an airport parking company which today has nearly $100 million in annual revenue and 2,000 employees. Earlier this year, Nesbitt launched a new private equity firm, The Vistria Group, which focuses on investing in middle market companies that operate at the nexus of the public and private sectors in the education, health care, and financial services industries. 

A friend of Barack Obama for nearly 20 years, Nesbitt served as finance chair for Obama’s Congressional race and served on the Finance Committee for his U.S. Senate campaign before becoming treasurer of Obama’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. These presidential campaigns birthed innovative Web-based efforts that combined with traditional fundraising tactics to break all previous fundraising and citizen-engagement records. Ultimately, they helped elect Nesbitt’s close friend and basketball buddy the first African-American president of the United States. 

Despite the professional and political demands on his time, Nesbitt has been devoted to community service. Mayor Richard M. Daley appointed him to the board of the Chicago Housing Authority, where he eventually served as chair. Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed him to an advisory committee weighing the privatization of Midway Airport. Nesbitt is a current trustee of Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art. He also serves on two corporate boards, Jones Lang LaSalle and Norfolk Southern Corporation. 

At Albion, Nesbitt served as co-captain of the Briton basketball team and was also a member of Delta Tau Delta fraternity, Mortar Board, Omicron Delta Kappa, and the Professional Management Program. In 2009, he delivered the Stoffer Lecture at Albion’s Opening Convocation and was awarded an honorary doctorate at that time. 

Nesbitt and his wife, Dr. Anita Blanchard, are the parents of Alex, Maxine, Roxanne, Xavier, and Xiomara, affectionately known as “Nesbitt Nation” at the White House.

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