Award-winning journalist, author and columnist Rhonda Swan wrote for the Daily Collegian when she was a student at UMass Journalism. She graduated in 1987 and went on to become the first African American city editor at the Republican (Springfield). She later worked at the News Journal (Delaware) and the Palm Beach Post (Florida), where she joined the Editorial Board in 2008.
Swan was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. At the time of her death in December 2015, Swan was writing columns for the Sun Sentinel (Florida) and the Republican.
To honor her life, her family established the Rhonda Swan Memorial Scholarship for two UMass Journalism majors who hope to make a positive difference in the world. Each student will receive $2,000. In August 2016, the first Rhonda Swan Memorial Scholarship Golf fundraiser was held at the Agawam Municipal Golf Course in Massachusetts.
The 2018 recipient of the scholarship is Cynthia Ntinunu '19. Ntinunu is an editor for the new student-run digital publication called The Rebirth Porject, which aims to give students of color a space to express their creativity. She also contributes pieces to the Daily Collegian and College Fashion.
Swan’s work has been featured on NBC/Universal’s theGrio.com and in newspapers throughout the United States and abroad. In addition to her journalism career, Swan wrote two novels, a volume on poetry and a memoir. She received numerous awards and recognition, including from the New England Associated Press, the News Executive Association and the National Association of Black Journalists.
“I didn’t know Rhonda,” said Journalism professor Kathy Roberts Forde, “but I’m grateful to know her family through the Rhonda Swan Memorial Scholarship fundraiser and their creation of this important scholarship. American newsrooms today still do not reflect the diversity of our country. This a problem both for journalism and public life as our country struggles with problems of racial injustice. Rhonda Swan’s accomplishments as a black woman journalist serve as a model for our students today, and I thank the Swan family for their generosity in honoring her life in a way that benefits our deserving students.”