Switzer Foundation Donor Legacy
Robert and Patricia Switzer established the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation out of a deep belief in the power of individuals to make a difference in the world, and the need to support and encourage people dedicated to solving real-world applied environmental problems. Their personal vision, business experience and the family’s strong environmental values have guided the foundation’s programs and operations, engaging fellows throughout the organization, on staff, on the board of trustees and as advisors through the Switzer Fellows Advisory Committee.
Robert Switzer and his brother Joseph first experimented with fluorescent chemicals in their father’s drugstore in order to develop glow-in-the-dark paints for Joe’s performance as a magician. What began as a family experiment later helped them launch Switzer Brothers, Incorporated in Cleveland, Ohio, which later became the Day-Glo® Color Corporation, world leaders in the development and production of daylight fluorescent chemicals. Later, their brother Fred Switzer joined the company. Today, Robert's and Joseph's discovery brightens everything from traffic cones to hula hoops and tennis balls.
Environmental engineering and policy expertise available to business and even regulators was in its infancy as the company grew. As an executive in a regulated company and a lifelong environmentalist, Robert became increasingly concerned about the lack of scientific expertise to answer questions related to complex environmental regulations and improving environmental quality. He readily sought to develop the expertise, science and innovation to produce the least harm to the environment.
When the company was sold in 1985, Robert and his wife Patricia created the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation. Through the foundation, they hoped to assist graduate students dedicated to applied environmental problem-solving and to encourage them to become leaders prepared to tackle new and emerging environmental challenges. Robert’s academic and professional experience taught him that leaders need an opportunity to excel and with funding, mentoring and coaching, leaders can innovate for sustainability, and can solve problems that are relevant in today’s world.
Robert Switzer died in 1997 at the age of 83 and Pat Switzer died in 2011 at the age of 98. Today, Robert's legacy continues, both in the Day-Glo® products which remain in use today and the cadre of environmental professionals striving to brighten our future by improving the quality of our natural environment.
"A business lifetime spent in the manufacturing of chemicals and in close cooperation with many other industries in developing uses for our products, has given us a deep insight into man’s ravaging of our environment and ecology. We’ve had intimate exposure over the years to many, many problems posed by the pollution of the air, water, lands and forests.
Robert S. Switzer
"Initially Bob’s focus for the fellowship was purely science. Over the years he realized you could spend a life studying one thing and not make any changes. Studying something alone was not going to make a change unless that person was enough of a leader to take what he was doing and bring it to the real world."
"The most satisfying thing is helping people, that’s what it’s all about. Sending graduate students to school who are interested in the environment. After all, that’s the most important thing, if we don’t clean up the environment what else is there?"
"The most important personality trait of Bob’s in terms of the future of the foundation, is to keep in mind Bob’s desire to see results. He didn’t want to throw money at problems — it was important to him to highlight that he wanted to improve rather that merely preserve the quality of our environment. This was very important to him in everything that he did."
SHAWNA SWITZER SAATY