Following her heart: Journey with alumna Luci Swindoll ’55, whose stories of faith and adventure continue to inspire thousands
As an author, speaker, singer, and artist, alumna Luci Swindoll ’55 has seen the world. Quite literally, she has been to all seven continents. “My first trip was in 1966 at the age of 33, and my last was in 2013 at the age of 81,” Luci said. “I have gone on approximately 58 international trips in total.”
Passionate about her experiences, Luci has recorded as many details as possible in her journals. “I have every trip written down, including who I was with and where we went,” she said. Luci continually keeps a journal with maps, pictures, and inspiring quotes she acquires along the way. She archives her feelings, as well as where and how she sees God at work.
“I’ve always been one to write everything down,” she said. “At 12 years old I wrote down what I wanted to do with my life.” Along with visiting every continent, Luci wrote the following goals in her childhood journal: “Go to college; learn a different language; make enough money to support myself; sing professionally; design, build, and own a house.”
At age 82, Luci has achieved all of her life goals. “Pursue your dreams by lining up your will with the will of God,” she said. “Then give your goals to God and see what he does.”
Attending college was one of Luci’s aspirations, but she had to “give it to God,” to make it possible. This landed her at UMHB. “As I look back on it, my time at Mary Hardin-Baylor was a definite part of my training,” she said. “To trust the Lord for anything that was beyond my scope of understanding was a challenge, and I learned to better trust the Lord while I was attending UMHB.”
Proud of her Crusader connection, Luci said the university’s culture played a significant role in her self-development. “I loved the Christian environment because I felt at home,” she said. “It’s comforting to be surrounded by other believers because you don’t have to fight for your beliefs. We all serve the same king, and we are all forgiven. To be in and learn in that environment is a blessing.”
While at UMHB, Luci was involved in many activities and developed strong friendships. Little did she know, one of her friends would eventually become one of her family members.
After meeting Erma Jean Hensley ’52 at UMHB, Luci encouraged her older brother, Orville Swindoll, to meet her friend. Erma Jean and Orville ended up falling in love, marrying, and moving to Argentina as missionaries.
However, marriage wasn’t in the books for Luci—nor did she want it to be. Post-graduation, Luci went to work for Mobil Oil Corporation in the research lab in Duncanville, Texas.
“I had my degree in art so I did drafting there, and I loved it,” Luci explained. “It was a job I could happily do every day because it was exceedingly exacting.”
Luci was able to find joy as a cartographer in the petroleum industry. “Mobil is where I learned to love to draw maps,” she said.
Although experiencing success in the corporate world, Luci still struggled with her identity. Both of her brothers—Orville and Charles Swindoll—were leading successful ministries and were married with families. But Luci felt she had neither, and she thought she wasn’t living up to her family’s expectations for her.
“My mother was so adamant about my getting married. I spoiled all the domestic dreams she had for her only daughter,” Luci said. “I was at odds with my mother for a long time, and that was very difficult.”
Luci felt certain she was called to the single life, but she had to pray that God would give her the peace and the confidence to face the challenges that came with singleness. “One day the Lord just told me, ‘Be you, Luci.’ He clearly told me, “I’ve already got Chuck (Charles) and Orville; I want you.’”
That enlightenment was a game-
changing experience for Luci. She began to understand that “the greatest influence you can have in this world is to simply be who you are,” Luci said. “As long as you are dedicated to God, he will work out the details.”
In 1974, she relocated with Mobil Oil to the west coast and worked as an artist for two years before she was promoted to the position of claim’s agent, and then again to corporate executive. After nearly 30 years with the company, Luci retired in 1987.
However, her hard-working spirit didn’t dwindle. She continued working in public relations at Insight for Living Ministries—a company her brother founded—while speaking at faith-based events and writing books. After many years of juggling these tasks, Luci knew she needed a more balanced lifestyle. She left her brother’s ministry in 1992 and went fulltime with Women of Faith as one of the organization’s first speakers. (Women of Faith is an organization which develops and stages faith-based events and conferences for women.) Luci worked with this organization until 2011, traveling 30-plus weekends a year for events.
Looking back, she has spoken to nearly five million women and has written 14 books. She’s been a singer in the Dallas Opera and an executive for a corporation. She’s traveled the world and built a home. It’s easy to see, this alumna has a lot of life experiences to share.
On March 26 and 27, Luci visited campus for the first time since 2000, when she received a Distinguished Alumni Award. During her visit, Luci spent time with students in small groups, performed a Q&A session with Mary Graham—former president of Women of Faith—and toured the campus to see how the various departments and buildings have developed over the years. “The campus has grown so much from when I was a student here,” she said. “But one thing has stayed the same: the people are exceedingly kind and hospitable here.”
When asked to share some advice with students and alumni, Luci wasn’t shy to give an answer. “When you’re young you have energy and time, but no money,” she said. “When you’re middle-aged you have energy and money, but you have no time. When you’re my age you have money and time, but no energy. So if you can put it all in a bubble and use a little as you go along, you won’t miss anything in life because you’ll be spending the three things you have to spend evenly all along the way.”
She laughed and said, “What I’m saying is this: live life now. If you want to be in ministry you can, and you will. But you have to say to the Lord, ‘I want to do it your way,’ and he will start opening the doors.”
She continued, “Don’t let your mind distract you from being present. If you’re not present in the moment, you will miss the ‘now.’ And ‘now’ is all we have.”