Finish Line Fund Renamed in Honor of Sam Swidey

Across a pioneering four-decade career in public education, Sam Swidey specialized in being able to reach young people who had been written off by others. He did this as a classroom teacher, as founder of a Head-Start-type program called the “School for the Not Readies,” and as a school principal who played John Lennon’s “Imagine” on the PA system in between classes. For the final quarter-century of his career, he worked as a high school adjustment counselor, helping troubled students find their way, co-founding a gang prevention and intervention program, and working to heal fractured families.

In 2008, when Neil Swidey worked with a group of dedicated friends to found the Alray Scholars Program and give a second chance to Sam Swidey Groupstudents who had been written off by others, he was guided by his father’s inspiring example. Over the years, Sam became a favorite presence at Alray events, forever connecting, counseling, cheering on (and feeding!) the scholars, volunteers and their families.

When Sam passed away in May of 2014, one month after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, it was heartbreaking not just to his large, close-knit family but to the entire Alray community. Knowing how invested he had been in the success of this nonprofit, many friends kindly made donations to the Alray foundation in Sam’s memory. Now those gifts will have a special home within the Alray organization.

The Alray Scholars Board of Directors has decided to name a signature Alray program in his honor. Because of mounting loans and diminishing aid, students often find that they need additional financial support to get over the last hump standing between them and their degree. The newly-named Sam Swidey Finish Line Fund will assist Alray Scholars who have shown themselves to be responsible students and committed mentees, but who need some extra financial help in their last year of college.

Previous recipients of Finish Line Fund awards include Yamirah Lacey, who earned her bachelor’s degree from Mount Ida College in the spring, and Teresa Pina, who earned hers from the University of Massachusetts at Boston in 2013. “This program beautifully represents the values that guided Sam in his life’s work,” says Mary Swidey, his wife of nearly 51 years. “I know he’ll be looking down on the scholars with pride and affection.”

Learn more about the Sam Swidey Finish Line Fund and hear from the Alray Scholars Program’s first recipient!

The Alray and Swidey families are grateful to all those who made donations in Sam’s memory. If you’d like to make a contribution to help promising students surmount their final college hurdle, please consider making a donation to the Sam Swidey Finish Line Fund. For more information, go to or contact Anne Comber at

Photo: Sam Swidey (R) and wife, Mary, and their son, Neil, join Boston Public School graduates Lamar Brathwaite and Jason White at the 2008 book launch party for The Assist, where the creation of the Alray Scholars Program was announced. Brathwaite and White were two of the students whose lives Neil chronicled in the book.