Kind, gentle, warm-hearted and humble – David Swope possessed all of these soulful traits and more, which is rare for a generous philanthropist, community leader and business owner. He passed away at home on Wednesday, January 31st after a long and debilitating illness. But, typical of his quietly courageous self, he was undaunted to the end.
David had served as Chair of the Board of Trustees of Westchester Community College in Valhalla, the Teatown Lake Reservation Environmental Education Center in Ossining and the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville. As a co-founder of Club Fit health and fitness centers in Briarcliff Manor and Jefferson Valley, he was a pioneer in the development of full service health and fitness membership clubs. He was also the owner of Tappan Hill in Tarrytown, now Abigail Kirsch catering.
Born in Mount Kisco, NY, September 24, 1941, he was the son of David and Sarah (Sally) Porter Swope and a third generation Ossining resident. His grandfather, Gerard Swope Sr., was President of General Electric and owned The Croft, a large equestrian-oriented estate which was donated by the family to form the original part of Teatown Lake Reservation.
David, known as Dee to family and friends, graduated from the Scarborough School in Briarcliff Manor and the Loomis School in Connecticut. He was a graduate of Harvard University and earned a law degree from Columbia University.
In the early 1960s, he answered President Kennedy’s call and joined the Peace Corps, spending two and a half years in India. This proved to be a life-changing experience and forged his life-long interest and love of India, Indian art and culture. It also inspired him to form a legal aid society in Bombay (Mumbai.) Throughout his life, he visited India and maintained an extensive network of Indian friends both at home and abroad.
After returning to the U.S., he worked as an attorney in Manhattan. David moved back to Ossining to assume his father’s business interests when he became ill; these included the Briarcliff and Jefferson Valley Racquet Clubs and Tappan Hill.
As he entered his 60s, David gradually shifted away from his business interests and devoted his time to non-profit organizations. Throughout his adult life he played a major role in the evolution and growth of Teatown, and he also supported numerous other environmental organizations and programs including the Westchester Land Trust and the Pace University Environmental Center. He spent many years on the Westchester Community College Board including overseeing the search for a new president to succeed long-time president Dr. Joseph Hankin. This effort culminated in hiring Dr. Belinda Miles, the current President.
David took an early interest in the creation and continued growth of the Jacob Burns Film Center (JBFC) and served as board chairman, spear-heading the creation of the JBFC’s Media Arts Lab. His prodigious fund-raising skills and passionate support helped the Burns achieve this major expansion as well as insure continuing outreach through extensive educational programming. He also served on the boards of the Ossining Children’s Center and Phelps Memorial Hospital in Sleepy Hollow, and offered generous financial support to numerous other groups and organizations.
David traveled extensively having visited every continent; he had friends across the nation and the globe.
He is survived by his sister, Dorothea (Dorry) Swope, by many cousins and by hundreds of friends. Funeral services will be private. Those interested in making contributions in David’s memory are asked to consider Teatown Lake Reservation, Westchester Community College, the Jacob Burns Film Center or a worthy organization of their choice.