Alumni Spotlight: The Loveliest Village on the Plains Sparked the Relationship of Chip and Aurelia Swann
Auburn University provides students with more than opportunities for academic success and real world-preparedness. This place, this family, cultivates relationships lasting well beyond graduation.
For Auburn alumni Howard “Chip” and Aurelia Swann, their relationship has lasted more than four decades.
Chip and Aurelia met in the fall of 1976 while studying in the old Saunders Hall on Auburn’s campus. Chip studied chemical engineering and Aurelia studied laboratory technology in the College of Sciences and Mathematics (COSAM). The two 1977 graduates – Chip in the spring, Aurelia in the winter – quickly became friends and later started dating – eventually marrying on Sept. 9, 1978, Aurelia Swann shared.
“What was amazing was that we even met at all, with the engineering buildings at the north side of campus and l lived and had class on the south end,” she said.
Aurelia calls her chance meeting with Chip a “God thing.”
While Chip conducted work-study with chemistry professor Dr. Paul Melius, Aurelia worked as a teaching assistant in the biochemistry lab with fellow COSAM majors, she said.
The Swanns still recall their classrooms, the campus buildings they frequented each day, and the memorable events they partook in.
“We had a few interesting things that went on during our tenure… We had streaking my freshman year, we had Bible studies at Haley Center at night, we had only day football games, enjoyed the ‘Wreck Tech’ parade and the Sigma Chi Derby race, had good concerts (Elton John), interesting speakers like Leonard Nimoy, and had a hurricane come through as well,” Aurelia said.
On top of that, she can still picture the dorm rooms she went home to every night.
While Chip lived off-campus in Conway trailer park, Aurelia lived on-campus, spending her first quarter in Noble Hall and all the others in Zoe Dobbs Hall in The Hill.
Many of the buildings the couple attended classes in are still standing, including Parker, Haley, Comer, RBD Library and Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum. However, the two have seen quite a bit of change to campus since the 1970s. Saunders Hall – their original meeting spot, the physiology and physics buildings, as well as the health clinic and the Eagle Cage are all gone.
Aurelia remembers the new-builds at the time being Telfair Peet Theatre, Goodwin Music Hall, and the pharmacy, she said.
While the architecture did not necessarily hold up, the friendships the couple made in the space did.
“Auburn friendships last the years,” Aurelia Swann said.
In the summer of 1977, prior to her graduation, Aurelia began a medical technology internship at Lloyd Noland hospital in Birmingham where she roomed with another COSAM graduate, Genie Riddle – a great friend who married Auburn engineering graduate, Lee Riddle, just one week before the Swanns’ wedding.
Upon graduation and the beginning of their marriage, Chip and Aurelia lived in a small town in Georgia where another “God thing” occurred. In this first place they called home together, by chance, one of Aurelia’s sorority sisters, Joanne Schrantz, lived there too.
“I have met with my sorority sisters yearly for about the last seven years. We attend basketball games, gymnastics events, plays etc. This winter we are planning to attend an equestrian event,” Aurelia said.
Just as Chip and Aurelia’s relationship has lasted well beyond graduation, so have these friendships. The couple recognizes the Auburn spirit in each of these friends, noting those who stuck by Aurelia during her lymphoma treatment, through visiting, sending flowers and making a prayer shawl.
“Auburn taught us to be hardworking, honest and loyal,” Aurelia said.
While Auburn is at the root of their relationship, Chip and Aurelia say the key to a long marriage is having God within it too.
“It is like a three stranded cord, very hard to break,” Aurelia said.
The Swanns continue to stay connected with Auburn – meeting regularly with friends, attending sporting events and giving back. They are truly thankful to Auburn, COSAM and the Loveliest Village on the Plains for sparking this relationship.