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Name: Charles Swarns
Major: Economics
Graduation Year: 1980
Company: SunTrust
Title: Managing Director, Private Wealth Management, Northeast Division
The character of the Queens College student hasn’t changed—that drive to succeed is the same as it was when the college opened 80 years ago.
Charles Swarns
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Like almost all Queens College students, Charles Swarns, Jr. ’80, a managing director of SunTrust, wasn’t born with the proverbial silver spoon. Growing up in St. Albans in southeast Queens, he attended public schools, enrolling first at Queensborough Community College before transferring to QC, where he earned a BA in economics. While working at JP Morgan as an intern, a job he was offered by a campus recruiter, he attended classes both day and evening.

Promoted to ever-higher levels of responsibility during his 35 years at the company that came to be known as JP Morgan Chase, Swarns could have focused single-mindedly on the demands of his finance career. Instead, he took the time to give promising students from his alma mater personal introductions to his company, which often led to internships. That work experience, in turn, gave them a leg up in their own careers, and the most talented were hired for full-time jobs.

A few years ago, Swarns’s involvement with students deepened after he accepted an invitation to participate in a QC career event after a long absence from campus. “Talking to the students, I was very impressed by their inquisitive nature and desire to succeed,” he says. “It was clear they didn’t need academic help. But what they didn’t have was mentorship and role models. I knew then that I wanted to extend myself as a mentor and help them build confidence in themselves.”

Not long after, Swarns joined the Queens College Foundation. He describes its board members as “a terrific group of dedicated alums and others who truly care about the college and the students and are motivated to give back. I myself have benefitted, seeing that in action.” (Swarns has also served on the boards of the Long Island Philharmonic and the Long Island Housing Partnership, which helps provide affordable housing opportunities.)

Thinking about QC in the late 1970s, Swarns recalled the vibrancy, energy, and stimulation, the caring professors, and the will to succeed that his classmates all shared.

“The demographics of the nation and the city have changed since then, and so there’s more diversity now, which is great to see,” says Swarns. “So many students are immigrants or children of immigrants and the first in their families to attend college. But the character of the Queens College student hasn’t changed—that drive to succeed is the same as it was when the college opened 80 years ago.”

Swarns believes that students should take great pride in Queens College which, he said, gave him a strong academic foundation for his career. Two decades after earning his economics degree, Swarns returned to the classroom, earning an Executive MBA from Pace University—once again, while employed at JP Morgan Chase.

This year Swarns moved to SunTrust, a major financial services company. Now as Managing Director for the Northeast Division of its Private Wealth Management office, Swarns helps clients preserve their wealth for future generations to benefit their families and, in many cases, the charities they believe in. “SunTrust is a purpose-driven company that wants to move individuals from financial stress to financial confidence at all stages of life, and help people focus on what’s important to them,” he says. “Working with individuals to achieve financial well-being has always been a source of satisfaction for me.”

What advice does he have for students in today’s highly competitive job market?

“I tell my mentees to be flexible about that first job,” he answers. “It may not be your ideal choice, but if you feel comfortable about the company, think of it as a stepping stone to use to prove yourself. That’s what I did—and it eventually led to just the job I wanted.

“And graduating students should consider making a contribution to the Queens College Foundation,” Swarns continues, “even if the amount is only $25.” By doing so, one generation of students gives a helping hand to a new one—a spirit of giving that Charles Swarns has lived by.


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