In Memoriam: Professor Peter Nash Swisher

Ronald J. Bacigal* 

Professor Peter Nash Swisher, seventy-two, passed away on June 15, 2016, after a year-long battle with multiple myeloma. Pete was born in 1944 in Oxford, England to Margaret Dixon and Dr. George Nash, a Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps. His father died returning from the War, and his mother eventually remarried Raymond Swisher, an American, and raised her two sons in Wisconsin.

Pete graduated from Amherst College in 1966 with a Bachelor of the Arts in history, and received his Master’s in Education from Stanford in 1967. He joined the U.S. Army in 1968 and served in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970 as a first lieutenant, where he was awarded the Bronze Star and the Vietnam campaign ribbon. Following his military service in 1973, he graduated from the University of California Hastings School of Law with his Juris Doctorate . He spent a year as a legal writing instructor at Indiana University prior to becoming a professor and assistant to the Dean at the University of Richmond, where he taught for more than forty years.

Professor Swisher loved to write. He published dozens of treatises, articles, and books on Virginia family law, torts, and insurance law, earning him a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Family Law Section of the Virginia State Bar. He brought excitement to the classroom by occasionally dressing up as the superhero, “Tortman,” helping him to earn the University of Richmond’s Distinguished Educator Award in 1994 and again in 2002.

Outside the classroom, he consulted or served as an expert witness in over a dozen insurance law cases. He also served for eight years as a reporter for the Virginia Court of Appeals. As a young professor, Pete played rugby (and drank a few beers) with an informal law school team. But his favorite student was certainly Karen Nell Ott whom he married in 1979. Karen and Pete enjoyed thirty-seven years of marriage, which transformed Pete from a California-loving hippie with long hair, into a “Southern Gentleman.” They enjoyed fox hunting at Deep Run Hunt Club, where Pete was known to share his flask of bourbon with other riders. They built their home and barn in Goochland County, and filled it with numerous dogs and horses. The birth of their only daughter, Stephanie, further transformed Pete, and the family spent many wonderful summer vacations together in Bald Head Island, North Carolina. He was very much the proud father when he appeared on stage to hand Stephanie her undergraduate diploma from the University of Richmond.

Sadly, Pete had just begun a two-year phased retirement when the cancer struck. It was everyone’s loss when his illness prevented him from returning to the classroom. Pete will be missed by all who knew him, but he will never be truly gone so long as he is remembered by his family, his colleagues, and his former students, many of whom will always regard him as their favorite teacher.


* Professor of Law, University of Richmond School of Law.