History & Legacy
Robert and Patricia Switzer established the Switzer Foundation out of a deep belief in the power of individuals to make a difference in the world and the need to support leaders dedicated to solving applied environmental problems. Their personal vision, business experience, and strong environmental values have guided the foundation’s programs and operations, alongside the leadership of fellows on staff, the Board of Trustees, and the Fellows Advisory Committee.
Robert Switzer and his brother Joseph first experimented with fluorescent chemicals in their father’s drugstore to develop glow-in-the-dark paints for Joe’s magic show. What began as a family experiment led them and their brother Fred Switzer to found the Day-Glo® Color Corporation, world leaders in the development and production of daylight fluorescent pigments. Today, the Switzers’ discovery brightens everything from traffic cones and pop art to hula hoops and tennis balls.
As the leader of a chemical company and lifelong environmentalist, Robert became increasingly concerned about the lack of scientific expertise available to support the company’s response to complex environmental regulations. When the company was sold in 1985, Robert and his wife Patricia created the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation to foster the expertise and innovation needed to improve environmental quality. Through the foundation, they aimed to support graduate students dedicated to applied environmental problem-solving and to encourage them to become leaders prepared to tackle new and emerging environmental challenges.
Robert Switzer died in 1997 at the age of 83 and Pat Switzer died in 2011 at the age of 98. Pat was a talented pianist, dedicated philanthropist, and life-long advocate for the humane treatment of animals. She was a strong spirit, with a wonderful sense of humor, great independence, and unfailing support of the foundation's mission. She especially valued the capacity of the foundation to bring people together, including Switzer family members to serve on the board and Switzer Fellows gathering at retreats.
Today, the Switzer family’s legacy continues, through the Day-Glo® products that remain in use today and the community of environmental leaders in the Switzer Network who are brightening our future by improving the quality of the natural environment.