May 12, 2021
Pryor, Okla. — RAE Corporation will hold a public memorial celebration to honor the life of their beloved founder on Wednesday, May 19 from 3-5pm on the west lawn of their campus at 4492 Hunt Street in Pryor, Okla.
Jim Swank passed away peacefully at his home with his wife, Ronnie, by his side on the evening of April 26 at the age of 85.
Jim was deeply loved by his family and well respected at RAE Corporation. He was an extraordinarily smart and accomplished entrepreneur who built a company that still embraces the vision he started fifty years ago.
Jim Swank was born in Durant, Okla. and grew up all across the state and Texas. He graduated from Will Rogers High School in Tulsa then served in the navy before returning to attend college at Oklahoma State’s Institute of Technology. From a young age, Jim was eager and relentless in his pursuit of love and success. Jim and Ronnie attended the same high school and Ronnie remembers being attracted to his confidence. Even with three young children, she never hesitated in supporting his dream to open RAE Corporation.
Jim founded RAE Corporation with five other bright minds on April 12, 1971. Those six people are the reason that almost 400 people have jobs at RAE Corporation today. Earlier this year, Jim and his son talked about the 50th anniversary of RAE Corporation and all the employees that make the company great. Jim’s wife said from the very beginning, he made decisions with the best interest of others in mind.
“Jim always said the people are what made RAE great. It was always about the employees. He didn’t like to spend money, but if someone had a need, he would give them all he could,” said Ronnie Swank. “Even after our son took over the company twenty years ago, Jim still went by just to walk the floors and see the people. He took so much pride in seeing the company grow.”
There were hard times and difficult decisions to make along the way. Jim and his team took risks when needed but were frugal when needed. To this day, through recessions and pandemics, the company is debt-free and has never had a layoff or furloughed employees.
“He looked for the best in others and gave the best he had,” said Ronnie.
Jim’s exceptional moral character, work ethic, commitment to people, financial diligence and unwavering perseverance made him a one-of-a-kind leader. The company is fortunate that Jim passed those same traits onto his son, Eric Swank, RAE Corporation’s current President and CEO.
“I will always be honored to continue what my dad started. He set the bar high and pushed me for greatness, but he always loved and supported me. Today, it makes me proud to look at all our employees and see that his legacy will live on,” said Eric Swank.
Jim was heavily involved in serving the community and schools. He served on the Board of Directors for the Grand River Dam Authority, RCB Bank and American Bank. He was also a valued member of the OSU-IT Advisory Committee and impacted many other organizations. The opportunity to pursue higher education was very close to Jim’s heart and he supported many scholarship programs. The family has requested that those who want to show their adoration for Jim, can make a gift to the OSU-IT scholarship fund.
Donations to the Swank Family Scholarship at OSU-IT can be made online at http://bit.ly/SwankFamilyScholarship. There is a box to check online that says “In Memory of” and you can add Jim Swank’s name.
Donations can be made to the Jim and Ronnie Swank Scholarship Endowment at Rogers State University at https://www.rsu.edu/development-foundation/give-to-rsu/ and selecting their name in the drop down.
Checks made payable to the OSU Foundation and can be mailed to the address below.
Please include in the memo line: Swank Family Scholarship 29-91350 in memory of Jim Swank
Oklahoma State University Foundation
400 South Monroe
Stillwater, OK 74074
Checks made payable to the RSU Foundation can be mailed to the address below.
Please include Jim and Ronnie Swank Scholarship Endowment in the memo line
1701 W. Will Rogers Blvd.
Claremore, OK 74017
About RAE Corporation