This article contains opinion.

A politician and a journalist – an unlikely friendship.

Behind the old, wooden counters of Tom’s Pizza, training as a server, is where I first had the pleasure of personally meeting Brian Henry Swatt, 21.

I had professionally known Brian, who was at the time serving on the PASSHE Board of Governorsand an active member of the Student Cooperative Board of Directors, for his sensational work as Student Government Association’s President during my freshman year (2016), specifically during the time when PASSHE professors went on a three-day strike during the fall semester.

Despite the cliché journalist-politician rivalry of today’s world, I learned many valuable lessons from Brian. Everything from how to treat customers with courtesy to how to have a low-key confidence and be an extraordinary leader – Brian had insight on it all.

The best way to summarize the way Brian was at Tom’s is in a tweet by fellow Tom’s server and IUP student Mackenzie Thayer (Junior, Education).

“The sweetest soul with a heart of pure gold.” She said. “I’m so thankful IUP brought you into my life, even if it was just for a short while. Your infectious smile, boring dad jokes, & personal concerts will forever be missed.”

That was Brian. Typically coming from working a full eight-hourwork day at Senator Joe Pittman’s office, he had a better attitude than anyone at Tom’s.

During those short free moments we had at work, moments I so dearly miss now, we would discuss different topics and issues such as student retention, the price of tuition and what the future of IUP held.

With Brian being such a prominent face on campus because of his work with PASSHE and SGA, and myself serving as The Penn’s Editor-in-Chief, we could have these extraordinary, in-depth conversations that held both great perception and thoughtfulness.

Even when we disagreed on topics, we could both respectfully see and appreciate the other’s point-of-view.

And back when I was blessed enough to be awarded IUP’s 2019 Outstanding Student Leadership Award, Brian of course, being one of the most outstanding student leaders IUP ever had, was one of the first people to text and congratulate me.

But I think that one of the best things about Brian is that he could put serious subjects aside and have fun – even if it was just for a little while.

Like Mackenzie said in her June 8 tweet, Brian would come into work strapped with riddles, jokes and stories that made work a little more fun, your day a little better and life a little brighter.

Brian recently passed away in a June 7 car wreck in Armstrong County.

And while the death of this extraordinary young man left many of us at Tom’s, IUP and all throughout the county with heavy hearts – we can all reflect on the extraordinary lessons Brian taught us.

I’d like to think that IUP alumnus Bill Patrick said it best.

“It never seems fair when a young man doesn’t get the chance to share all of their talents, but he did make an impact on a lot people with his time on this earth,” he said. “If he made that big of an impact on you imagine how many others he touched with his kindness.”

Rest in peace, Brian. 

Thank you.

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