Bob Switzer's Story
In 1932, Robert C. Switzer was awarded a scholarship by the Scaife Scholarship Foundation of Oakland, California, which enabled him to attend the College of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley. However, following a serious accident which permanently impaired Robert’s vision, and left him under family care for an extended period, Robert and his brother Joseph undertook some of their own chemical research. They took a black light into their father's drugstore and discovered several naturally fluorescent organic compounds. Robert and Joseph began mixing these chemicals with shellac creating the first fluorescent paints. They soon realized the widespread potential of fluorescents and began manufacturing paints and dyes. Their products were used extensively during World War II. Troops in North Africa used fluorescent panels to identify themselves as friendly to allied bombers. The materials allowed our warplanes to operate at night in the Pacific and were used to detect hidden flaws in plane engines and parts. After the War, the brothers created their own company in Cleveland, Ohio, Switzer Brothers, Inc. 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 and Joseph's discovery brightens everything from traffic cones to hula hoops and tennis balls.
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. When the company was sold in 1985, Robert used a portion of the proceeds from the sale to create the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation. Through the Foundation, Robert hoped to assist graduate students dedicated to applied environmental problem solving and to encourage these highly trained individuals to become future environmental leaders. Robert Switzer died in 1997 at the age of 83. He is survived by a large family and more than 450 Switzer Fellows. Today, Robert's legacy continues, both in the Day-Glo® products which ensure our safety and the cadre of environmental professionals striving to brighten our future by improving the quality of our natural environment.
The Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation also developed a document that summarizes the donors’ intentions in setting up the Foundation, and was produced with the help of many Switzer family members and close associates. This Donor Legacy Statement outlines the historical and motivational story behind the Foundation’s inception and is intended to broaden understanding of the core purpose of the Foundation among Fellows, Trustees, family members and other family foundations seeking to capture their founding purpose.