The Switzer Foundation: 30 Years of Environmental Leadership!

The Switzer Foundation: 30 Years of Environmental Leadership!

Posted by Lissa Widoff on Wednesday, June 29 2016


In the last few months, we have hosted a whirlwind of events celebrating the Foundation’s 30th anniversary. When Robert and Patricia Switzer established the Foundation, they knew they were committed to helping environmental leaders get the academic training they need to solve real world issues. The Switzer family members and trustees who now govern the board carry on this tradition and have helped the Foundation evolve to meet new issues and challenges.

Wild and Scenic Film Festival, January 2016

We began our celebrations this winter in January in Nevada City, CA in conjunction with the Wild and Scenic Film Festival. Nearly 20 Fellows were in attendance at the films, at the workshop we hosted, and at an informal dinner. Sharing films, meals, walks and other informal gatherings hosted by area Fellows, we were excited to know that the Fellows Network can enjoy social and family time together as well as create solutions for our earth systems.

Lissa Widoff with Switzer family members Paul and Shawna Switzer in DC, March 2016

On March 11th, in conjunction with our DC Policy Communications training for current Fellows, we held a reception and dinner for our training participants as well as DC-area Fellowship alumni and Switzer family members.

Switzer Fellows Max Parness and Rebecca Dell with keynote speaker and Switzer Fellow Jason Grumet (right)

Besides the wonderful food, drink and company, we were fortunate to have Switzer Fellow Jason Grumet (right in photo above) as our keynote speaker. Jason is President of the Bipartisan Policy Center, a think-do tank in DC that works on energy, health and other broad policy issues. He offered first-hand insight into the workings of policy action in DC, and talked about how incremental change is a necessary part of the trajectory despite the inevitable trade-offs. He was engaging and inspiring and the conversations continued late into the night. 

Boston reception at the New England Aquarium, March 2016

Shortly after returning from DC, we hosted another wonderful event (on March 25th) in Boston after our workshop on race and privilege. This reception, at the New England Aquarium, included over 70 Fellows, colleagues, trustees and friends. Here again, there was wonderful food and company, and the inspiring and eloquent Terry Tempest Williams was our keynote speaker.  The timing of her speech was on the heels of her recent purchase, with her husband Brooke, of an oil and gas lease in Utah, adjacent to Arches National Park. This bold (and unplanned!) move prompted waves of excitement from the activist community, but also reverberations of upset to the status quo in the oil and gas industry and even her academic position. She spoke of her experience as a teacher, writer and advocate, her inspiration to take this action, and her forthcoming book about our National Parks and public lands as important sacred lands in our society. We’ll follow her plans for a new model of “energy development” on that land as she seeks to “fuel a movement” of lovers of the earth.

Los Angeles gathering at the Huntington Botanical Gardens, April 2016

And most recently, we gathered in Pasadena with some of our Los Angeles-area Fellows and Switzer family members for a walk at the Huntington Botanical Gardens, followed by dinner.  The highlight for me, besides the warm sunshine, was seeing Fred Switzer, Bob Switzer’s brother, long time supporter of the Foundation’s mission, and mentor to many of the early leaders of the Foundation. Seeing him and his family, and his smile, as many of our Fellows shared their work in air quality, toxics, watershed protection and more, brought warmth to all of us.

The fun continued with a big event in San Francisco on May 20th and a gathering in early June on my native turf in New York. Please enjoy the photos and memories below and thanks to all of you for joining us to celebrate, and for sending your news to keep our Network vibrant!


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