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June 15, 2019

5/25/2019 7:30:00 AM
School board to hear sports facility proposal
By River News Staff

The Hodag Schools Foundation (HSF) is ready to present a proposal to the School District of Rhinelander Board of Education as to how to use a $500,000 donation from Dr. Lee Swank and family to fund indoor sports facility improvements.

The board will hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 28 to hear the HSF presentation, district superintendent Kelli Jacobi announced in a memo attached to the agenda for Tuesday's meeting.

"On Tuesday, May 28th, the Hodag Schools Foundation (HSF) will present the Board with a proposal for the use of the Swank Family funds and will share options for the Board to consider in an effort to meet the District's indoor facility needs. HSF will also share information regarding additional donations and fund-raising efforts that will be necessary to raise the additional dollars needed to complete an indoor facility."

In January, the board formally approved a donor agreement between HSF, the district and Swank.

Swank's donation is the largest in the history of HSF, a nonprofit organization established in 2003.

"Dr. Swank approached us as he saw the need due to difficult weather that happens in the winter and springtime and he really wanted to make a difference to the students and the community," HSF president Dave Heck told the board in January. "And he approached us about making this donation to improve the indoor facility usage, opportunities and options."

"We're thrilled, this is incredible, we're so appreciative of Dr. Swank," Heck continued, noting that the donation will provide a springboard for "incredible potential" of future enhancements that can happen through other donations.

"We've already had people approach us and say that they have an interest," Heck noted.

For his part, Dr. Swank told the board he was pleased to be able to give back to the community.

"I just want to say that I feel very fortunate to be in a position where I could do something positive for the school and the community," he said.

A long-time physician at Ascension, Dr. Swank and his wife Judy moved to Rhinelander in the 1980s. Small town values and outdoor living were priorities in the move, according to an HSF release.

Dr. Swank noted, "We looked at many places in Wisconsin, in the southern and central part of the state, but my wife kept saying we had to have a place up North. We were familiar with the community. We were familiar with all the communities around the area, but because of what Rhinelander had to offer, we chose Rhinelander."

Dr. Swank noted the strong school system as a major reason to move to Rhinelander and in his decision to give back. He commented, "It was fantastic for my son. He got a tremendous education and had great teachers. My wife was very involved. She coached junior high track for a while, and for about 15 years, she coached cross-country skiing. She enjoyed the kids. She always told them, it is not how good a skier you are, it is how good a person you are. I think the kids remembered that."

The Swank Family was very involved in activities and saw the success of the cross-country team with both their son and the state team being inducted in the Hodag Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, Dr. Swank lost his wife to cancer in 2009 but he has continued their family mission to be active and involved. He is an avid outdoor enthusiast known for biking, skiing, and enjoying the outdoors. However, his passion to make this donation did not come from what he saw outdoors, but what he did not see indoors, the release states.

Dr. Swank commented, "I've always felt that the most important thing we can do is educate our kids, and I was concerned by the fact that the kids did not have a place to do spring activities. I read in the paper that the kids were practicing in the hallways, the gym, and classrooms due to the short spring. I know that other communities in the area have indoor facilities; I thought that Rhinelander should have one too."

Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, May 28, 2019
Article comment by: Cory Hoffmann

If anyone has a chance, check out the 1981 RHS Yearbook. It was in there that it was suggested to build a sports facility. 38 years ago!! Time for a change Rhinelander!! And with the help of the Swank family, we can make this happen!!

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