Gary Swenson – A mentor and community advocate

Gary Swenson, 83, died on April 22, 2022, at his home in San Diego. Swenson was a founding partner of Swenson Say Fagét structural engineers. Gary was born, lived, and worked most of his life in the Puget Sound area.

Swenson attended the University of Washington where he earned a Bachelor of Civil Engineering degree in 1961. He worked briefly at Boeing and then trained under Harvey Dodd before striking out on his own in 1968. He was a principal structural engineer and owner of several firms during his career, culminating in the formation of Swenson Say Fagét in 1995.

Gary was more than a structural engineer and managing partner. He was a mentor to partners and staff, and his dedication and vision were a true inspiration for all who worked with him. His vision of creating a workplace encompassing quality work, respect, and creativity was the backbone of SSF.

Swenson’s extensive portfolio included various project types, ranging from single-family residences to multi-million-dollar public projects. He dedicated his career to historic preservation and restoration. The mayor appointed him to serve on the City of Seattle’s Landmarks Preservation Board. He was involved with historic buildings such as the West Seattle, University, Fremont, and Queen Anne Carnegie Libraries, Parrington Hall at the University of Washington, and many others.

Fifty years after graduating from the UW, Swenson retired in 2011. In addition to the Landmarks Board, he also sat on the Seattle Design Commission and the Pioneer Square Preservation Board. He was an active member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Society of Architectural Historians, the International Conference of Building Officials, the Seattle Downtown Association, the Seattle Architectural Foundation, the Structural Engineers Association of Washington, and the Applied Technology Council.

He is survived by his wife Becky Robar, their daughter Laura Finn, daughter-in-law Shannon Finn and granddaughters Harlow and Vada, brother David Swenson, and many nieces, nephews, grand-nieces, and grand-nephews.

A Celebration of Life was held on August 13, 2022, at the Women’s University Club in Seattle. The program was live streamed and is available for viewing on YouTube. The slideshow is an eclectic collection of classic Gary photos. The program starts at 2 minutes 55 seconds into the video. Thanks to Blaze for his heartfelt thoughts about Gary (27 min 40 sec in) and his influence on everyone around him. For those who never met Gary, this video clearly illustrates his impact on our SSF culture.

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