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In August 2013, George Simas swam 2.4 miles, biked 112, and ran 26.2 to honor the memory of his long-time friend and mentor—McLean trustee Thomas J. Swan Jr.
“Tom was one of a kind,” said Simas, president and chief operating officer of Emerson Swan, a company founded by Swan and his brother Joseph. “He made you feel as if his conversation with you was the most important one he ever had.”
Simas was in college when he began working for Emerson Swan, initially doing odd jobs around Swan’s home and later working part-time at the corporate office. He describes Swan, who died in 2011, as benevolent, savvy and uniquely gifted with people. He would meet someone once and greet him by name a year later, and he frequently sent hand-written personal notes to employees and friends for all sorts of reasons.
Swan was a cherished member of the McLean Board of Trustees, valued for his business acumen and his passion for McLean’s mission. He helped connect countless people in need to McLean.
Two of those people were Simas’ brother and sister-in-law, who were struggling to find the right kind of care for their two sons. Swan referred the family to McLean, where the boys finally received an accurate diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.
Last year Simas decided that, after years of competing in triathlons, it was time to attempt the formidable Ironman. He knew that fundraising for McLean and competing in memory of Swan would be powerful motivators.
Simas finished the Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, Ironman in 14 hours, 58 seconds. There were moments during the grueling race when he questioned whether or not he would make it to the finish line.
“I would think of all the people who contributed to my challenge and knew I had to accomplish what I said I would,” said Simas. “That and wanting to truly honor Tom is what kept me going.” His fundraising efforts raised nearly $40,000 for the McLean Fund.
One of the most generous gifts to Simas was from Thomas J. Swan, III, who continues his father’s legacy at McLean through philanthropy and his role on the McLean National Council.
“Dad may not have been a triathlete, but he was my personal hero and truly an ‘Iron Man’ in his own right,” said Tom. “His intelligence, work ethic, humility and love for people made him successful in business and in the larger context of life. He would have been proud of George’s achievement and honored that it benefited McLean.”