By Kelsi Peace, Managing Editor
Almost four years later, people still remember Zach Swan’s Freshman Devotional sermon.
Some called him “preacher” because of his knack for speaking.
Others enjoyed his intelligence and humor.
And Zach’s sermon impressed David Altuna, senior biochemistry major from Austin, so much that David sought him out afterward.
“He just preached, and it was amazing,” David said. “I was like, ‘I have to meet this guy.'”
He did, beginning a friendship with Zach, a man he remembers
preaching with honesty and transparency.
“You were OK with trusting Zach,” David said. Zach, senior accounting major from Fort Worth, took his life early Monday
morning, according to an email Dr. Jean-Noel Thompson,
vice president of Student Life, sent to the ACU community Monday.
At ACU, he left behind a group of friends who praised him for his outstanding friendship, jovial laugh and hospitable heart.
Jason Allen, senior youth and family ministry major from Pflugerville, met Zach during their sophomore year, when, Jason says, he was seeking a friend who was serious about his relationship with God. He found that person in Zach, and
after a Spring Break Campaign to Boulder, Colo., last year, Zach, David, Jason and Paul Shumate (’07) decided to live together this year.
Jason and Zach planned to co-lead the campaign, but Jason said Zach stepped down because of concerns that the stresses of co-leading would hurt their friendship.
Instead, Jason said, Zach encouraged the campaign with his words, reminding the women they were beautiful and challenging them to expect respect from men. To the men, Zach’s message was simple: Watch the words that come out of your mouth.
Zach entered ACU as a Bible major and switched to accounting his sophomore year. His roommates said he often put in 40 hours per week at different jobs he held – most recently at Lytle Land and Cattle Co.
“He was a very simple guy,” Jason said. “He was so fine just sitting around and talking.”
And Zach loved communing at the table, hosting his friends and sharing his skill for cooking, his roommates said.
“He cooked a mean steak,” David said.
Recently, at a cookout for David’s birthday, Jason recalled Zach spending his time in the back of the house, grilling steaks and
hamburgers, coming inside to clean and always making sure his guests were enjoying themselves.
“That’s all that mattered to him – is that David had a good birthday,” Jason said.
When he wasn’t cooking, Zach was laughing or singing praises.
Jason, along with David and many who knew Zach, remembered his distinct laugh – what he called a “deep belly laugh.”
David said most times, he would laugh at Zach; then he would laugh at Zach’s unique laugh.
“He was extremely witty,” David said. “But it was always under the guise of a redneck accent.”
And Zach sang – loudly. “He knew he did not have a good voice, but he would sing louder than anybody,” Jason said.
When he wasn’t singing himself, Zach was listening to 90.5 FM, the local Christian station, Jason said.
Friends remembered Zach on Facebook for his infectious laugh, genuine friendship and Christian character.
“He always disarmed me no matter the situation,” wrote Josh Love, senior Biblical text major from Portland, Ore. “I couldn’t get mad enough, proud enough, serious enough – with that laugh he was always able to get me back into a state of mind that was actually worth something to others; I can never say
enough about how much his selfless love meant to me.”
Francis Green, Southern Hills campus minister, said the last time she spoke with Zach, he encouraged her in a struggle of her own.
“When I think of Zach, I just think of somebody happy, encouraging,” she said.
Francis said Zach regularly attended Southern Hills’ Wednesday night college service, H.I.P., along with Sunday services. And he was always surrounded with a close group of friends, she said.
“He was a very lovable guy,” Francis said. “He was easy to be with, and I know a lot of people loved him.”
About 100 students and 20 ACU faculty and Southern Hills staff members gathered in Chapel on the Hill Monday to pray and remember Zach.
“He was loved,” Jason said. “He was so loved by so many people.”
At the service, students sang ‘Mansion, Robe and Crown,’ Zach’s favorite song, in his honor, Jason said. “It’s appropriate that Zach has his mansion, robe and crown now,” Jason said.
David said in conversation with Zach this summer, he often compared him to Jonas, the Christ-like figure from Louis Lowry’s “The Giver.” Jonas takes on others’ burdens and often feels alone – much like Zach, David said.
“The boy knew his Bible back and forth,” Jason added. “He had a good grounding of God.”
Jason described Zach as the kind of person who would study and search the Bible for an answer if he didn’t have it.
His roommates said even some of Zach’s last words to them focused on Christ: “Continue to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Both men acknowledged the weight of Zach’s charge but said his words and attitudes won’t be forgotten.
“He emulated the mission of Christ,” David said.
Visitation will be from 6- 8 p.m. Wednesday at Laurel Land Funeral Home, 7100 Crowley Road, Fort Worth.
The funeral service will be at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Western Hills Church of Christ, 8800 Chapin Road, Fort Worth.
A Zach Swan Memorial Fund has been established at the Wells Fargo Bank in Benbrook. To make a donation, call the bank at 817-249-6500.