Beloit College Magazine

Beloit College Magazine

Fall/Winter 2014 (November 4, 2014)

Remembering Gwen: Queen of Commons

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November 3, 2014

OBIT Gwen McSwine
Gwen McSwine was a beloved member of Beloit's food service staff from 1997 to 2006.
She passed away on June 30. Photo courtesy of Dan Greeney'01.

Like a lot of first-year students, Dan Greeney’01 recalls that he was nervous and possibly a little homesick his first week on campus back in 1998. Then he went to lunch and met Gwen McSwine, the self-appointed “Queen of Commons” who worked for the college’s food service from 1997 to 2006.

Her larger-than-life personality, unfaltering interest in students’ welfare, and infectious laugh endeared her to many, including Greeney. The two went on to become great friends, with Gwen even playing a character in the popular Dr. T and Paul TV show that Greeney, Tamir Ardon’02, and Albert Taylor’02 produced as students.

Gwen died June 30, 2014, in Beloit, Wis., at 57.

“Gwen knew all the students and was invited to almost every party,” remembers Bill Flanagan, who was dean of students during Gwen’s “reign” at Beloit. “She had a big heart, and didn’t always have the best of luck, but when it came to Beloit students, she always put them first.”

Greeney says that Gwen made him feel comfortable on campus almost immediately. “Whenever I saw her I knew I was in a safe, welcoming place,” he says. “Beloit became that place for me, in no small part because of Gwen.”

Ardon describes her as “quite possibly the most interesting, fascinating, and sometimes downright terrifying woman I’ve ever known and loved,” he says, adding that Gwen was a sweetheart who regaled students with stories that revealed an underlying toughness.

“Let’s put it this way,” Ardon says. “If I were involved in a street fight, I’d want Gwen on my side.”

Greeney adds that Gwen was fiercely loyal to all those she called her Beloit “kids.”

“She truly cared about how we were doing in and out of school,” he says.

Gwen’s friendships among students ran so deep that Greeney and a group of Beloit friends arranged for her to visit them in 2006, when they lived in Los Angeles. It was her first flight on an airplane and her first glimpse of the ocean.

“We will most remember her hilarious laugh, which always compelled all of us to laugh with her,” Greeney says.

Born Gwendo Delores McSwine, she is survived by her mother, two daughters, a son, five siblings, seven grandchildren, a great granddaughter, and countless Beloit College “kids.”


  • November 11 2014 at 6:39 pm
    Jon Moran

    I absolutely loved Gwen. What a wonderful person. She will live on in our hearts and memories forever.

  • November 23 2014 at 7:34 am
    Addi F '02

    We still make Gwen Pasta. Commons was closed on Sunday nights, and we students had to cook for ourselves. We made a simple pasta dish with pesto, roasted peppers, sausage, and broccoli. It became a favorite meal, and eventually someone asked, "what should we call this dish?" Someone at dinner suggested we call it "Gwen pasta" because it was the only meal of the week when we didn't get to see Gwen. We all missed her a little bit on Sunday.

  • January 22 2015 at 7:56 pm
    Dan Greeney '01

    Gwen Pasta sounds delicious.  I'll have to make some soon in her memory.

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