Cal Poly Foundation Board Chair William H. Swanson, right, receives the Department of the Navy Distinguished Civilian Service Award from Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer.

Cal Poly Foundation Board Chair William H. Swanson has been recognized by Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer with the Navy Distinguished Civilian Service Award.

The award is the highest honor the secretary can confer upon a civilian employee. It is granted only to those who have given distinguished or extraordinary service to the Department of the Navy and is reserved for contributions that are so unusual or significant that recognition at the Secretary of the Navy level is deserved. 

Swanson, the former chairman and CEO of Raytheon, a Cal Poly alumnus (B.A. Industrial Engineering ’72), and board chair of the Cal Poly Foundation since 2014, worked as a principal on the Secretary of the Navy Cybersecurity Readiness Review from October 2018 to March of this year. 

“Receiving this award is an incredible honor,” said Swanson. “It was a privilege to work on this critical issue and present our findings to the Secretary of the Navy. These recommendations have the potential to shape the future of cybersecurity for the Navy well into the next century.” 

Swanson, along with three other principals and a select Navy team, reviewed and examined the Navy’s current cybersecurity practices and issued a comprehensive report with ground-breaking discoveries and recommendations that will help ensure the Department of the Navy is prepared to combat the cybersecurity challenges of today and the potential cyber warfare threats of tomorrow. 

“We commend and celebrate Bill for this achievement,” said Cal Poly President Jeffery D. Armstrong. “Throughout his career and his work on the Cal Poly Foundation Board, Bill has consistently demonstrated exceptional leadership and offered sound counsel and acute judgement. It comes as no surprise that he would be honored with such a noteworthy recognition, and we are proud to count him as part of the Cal Poly family.”

As a Cal Poly Engineering alumnus, Swanson has spent a considerable amount of time mentoring engineering students over the years. 

“Students in the College of Engineering benefit greatly by the example Bill sets,” said Cal Poly College of Engineering Dean Amy S. Fleischer. “His guidance inspires them to be system thinkers, allowing them to address the world’s problems with confidence and competence.” 

About the Navy Distinguished Civilian Service Award

The Department of the Navy Distinguished Civilian Service Award is the highest honorary award the Secretary of the Navy can confer on a Department of the Navy civilian employee. The award is granted only to those employees who have given distinguished and/or extraordinary service to the department. Only those members whose service is truly exceptional and far exceeds the contributions and service of others with comparable responsibilities receive this level award. This award is reserved for contributions that are so unusual and/or significant that recognition at the Secretary of the Navy level is deserved. 

About the Cal Poly Foundation

The Cal Poly Foundation incorporated as a philanthropic tax-exempt foundation [a 501(c)(3) corporation] and an official auxiliary of Cal Poly in March 2006. Led by Cal Poly alumni and friends, the Cal Poly Foundation was incorporated to generate private support that plays a crucial role in building and maintaining Cal Poly’s multidisciplinary Learn By Doing educational model. For more information, visit