Tribute to Jeffrey Swett, Class of 1999
An Excellent Friend
by Jeremy Glass, Class of 2002
Throughout the day of December 8, 2016, OA’s alumni community came together in shock and sadness as we heard the news that our friend, Jeffrey Swett, had died. Jeffrey graduated with the ardently indomitable class of 1999, and while he was a student at the academy only 3 semesters, his charisma and warm personality shot his popularity status on campus through the roof.
My friendship with Jeffrey began in 1999 when we became early morning jogging and Bible reading buddies. While all of us who knew him have our own stories, I believe there is one quality that we all remember—he loved people and made those who engaged with him feel that love. Jeffrey became, probably undeservedly, somewhat of a hero figure in my early teenage mind—a position that no matter what, he never quite lost. Through that friendship, he became a spiritual mentor of sorts and a big brother figure to me, so it isn’t any wonder that from time to time I would talk with him about life issues and adolescent troubles. Even when I thought that he might hate, ridicule, or condemn me, I never saw one judgmental bone in his body, but only compassion and love. He had accepted Christ during week of prayer that fall, and became a living example of the life changing power of the love of God, and that love unmistakably shone from him like the city on a hill.
Before I make him appear to have been super serious and spiritual all the time, he definitely had a playful and somewhat ridiculous side. Once when it snowed, he participated in a polar bear swim across Oasis Pond. Snow all over the ground, water at who knows what temperature and he was out there risking hypothermia in swim trunks and no shirt swimming across the pond.
He was also a guitar player and songwriter. A performance with some friends of a fun, guitar driven song called “Broccoli” for 1998’s amateur hour, brought down the house as it were with whoops, hollers, yells, and raucous clapping. That song lives on as an amazing moment in the memories of those fortunate enough to have heard it. Whether seeing him playing his guitar, riding his skateboard, or whatever else he did, you saw an impressive passion and zest for living life to the limit. And by the way, the chorus of “Broccoli” was the final song played at Jeffrey’s memorial service.
During his senior year, he became the guy’s dorm R.A., and other than helping me with my algebra homework, I remember two phrases he used regularly. One was, “Thomas, go to your room!” and the other, at lights out room check, was, “God loves you guys!”
“God loves you.” To really accept and believe that truth will set your heart and spirit free. To hear it said with such authenticity, love, and conviction meant the world to me as a 14-year-old. We have all experienced life as it has come to us in the ensuing 17 years, but I never get tired of hearing that reminder. I wish I could hear Jeffrey say it again. The love of God is meant to be shared with people like candy, so they too can know its incredible grace and power.
Jeffrey was not a saint. Sometimes, he was an idiot. At his memorial service, he was described as unorthodox. Many people of faith expect a certain cookie cutter personification for Christians, but Jeffrey took life to the limits. If he messed up, he did it all the way. He asked tough questions. He had loves, doubts, and fears. But for me, now a man who looks back at a friendship where I gained a brother at a time when life was all ahead of me, I remember my friend —who taught me to be real, vulnerable, authentic and to pursue Jesus Christ.
So, Jeffrey, thank you for your friendship. We all miss you terribly, and if I can return the favor here, “God loves you, man!”
Jeffrey was 36. He and his two siblings are all a part of our alumni family. He was a loving son, brother, and uncle. Please continue to keep his family in your thoughts and prayers.