October 2, 2020

Flagship Purdue Polytechnic High School center named to honor $4M gift from business leaders Ed and Beatriz Schweitzer

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INDIANAPOLIS — Purdue University President Mitch Daniels announced on Friday (Oct. 2) that the university’s flagship Purdue Polytechnic High School will honor Purdue alumnus Edmund O. Schweitzer III and Beatriz Schweitzer for their $4 million commitment to programs and scholarships to support the educational and career success of underrepresented students.

The naming of the Schweitzer Center at Purdue Polytechnic High School Englewood was approved by Purdue’s Board of Trustees during its meeting in Indianapolis, where Purdue created its first of three alternative charter high schools in 2017. The high schools were launched to better prepare traditionally underserved students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. 

The naming honors the latest gift to Purdue from the couple, based in Pullman, Washington. Edmund Schweitzer earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Purdue's School of Electrical and Computer Engineering in 1968 and 1971. He is the founder, president and chief technology officer of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL), which invents, designs and builds digital products and systems that protect power grids around the world. SEL Purdue conducts electric power research and development in the Purdue Discovery Park District.

 “We created Purdue Polytechnic High School to serve as an engine of upward mobility by building our own pipeline of low-income and minority students to counteract the unacceptably small number emerging from the public education system, not just in Indiana, but nationwide,” Daniels said. “With the first graduation just months away, we’re very encouraged that many PPHS students will be qualified and eager to attend Purdue. The last critical element is to make sure finances don’t prevent them from doing so. The Schweitzers’ gift enables us to take a ‘giant leap’ toward removing that final barrier.”

There is now a charter network of three Polytechnic high schools in central and northern Indiana founded by Purdue. Following the first Indianapolis charter school in 2017, Purdue opened its second in Indianapolis’s Broad Ripple neighborhood in 2019. The third charter campus opened in South Bend this year. The STEM-focused schools also provide students with experiences including internships, industry projects, dual-credit courses and technical certifications. 

schweitzers-new Edmund O. Schweitzer III and Beatriz Schweitzer (Purdue University photo/Gerry Robinos)

Members of Purdue Polytechnic High School’s first cohort of seniors will graduate in 2021, many with both the qualifications and desire to attend Purdue, said Scott Bess, Purdue Polytechnic High School’s head of school and a Purdue alumnus himself.

“The generous gift by Ed and Bea Schweitzer to Purdue Polytechnic High School is truly transformative,” Bess said. “The funds directed to scholarships will allow multiple PPHS students to realize their dream of attending Purdue University. Far too often, a financial gap causes highly capable students, like many of our PPHS graduates, to settle for a lesser post-secondary experience or, worse, to not attend college at all. This gift will help to close that gap. The other portions of the gift will provide additional financial stability to PPHS and allow more of the operational budget of the school to be directly allocated into the classrooms. The entire PPHS family thanks the Schweitzers for their gift. We are proud to have their name added to our Indianapolis Englewood campus.” 

Gary R. Bertoline, dean of Purdue Polytechnic Institute, said the students who succeed in the rigorous Purdue Polytechnic Indianapolis High School curriculum will be directly admitted to Purdue thanks to the gift’s financial support component. Purdue faculty, primarily from the Purdue Polytechnic Institute, worked with industry leaders to develop the unique curriculum and teaching methods for the high schools as a blend of K-12 and postsecondary education.  

“As a direct result of this gift, more students will experience the benefit of transformed high school education and a more attainable university education,” Bertoline said. “The generosity of Dr. and Mrs. Schweitzer will touch so many lives now and well into the future, and for that we will be forever grateful.” 

The Schweitzers’ gift includes $2 million to provide need-based scholarship support for underrepresented students across the College of Engineering, College of Science and the Purdue Polytechnic Institute.

Another $2 million from the gift will go toward Schweitzer Center staff to provide funding for part-time student mentors and full-time advising staff, including a Schweitzer learning coach focused on engineering. 

A portion of the gift will be used for building renovation. Funding also will be provided for the Schweitzer K-12 Learning Innovation Initiative, a study by Purdue researchers to document the efficacy of the Purdue Polytechnic High Schools’ program.

Ed and Bea Schweitzer said their gift to Purdue Polytechnic High Schools is in keeping with their desire to make a difference in difficult times for underrepresented minorities in STEM education and professions.

“Supporting education is important to Bea and me, and we’re pleased this gift to Purdue will provide current and future students with the educational and life skills needed for future success in a 21st-century economy,” Ed said.

“We wanted to do something to make a difference for others who, in turn, can make a difference in their own communities to change the world,” said Bea, who grew up in Mexico. 

With his educational background and professional experience, Ed Schweitzer said opportunities in engineering and the STEM fields are both essential and ubiquitous around the world.

“What a cool thing to be a part of a career that’s fun, valuable, pays well, and allows you to contribute to your community – wherever you come from and wherever you may go. And we are proud and honored to help underrepresented minorities grow and achieve success in much-needed technical and scientific endeavors,” he said.

The Schweitzers’ $4 million gift to PPHS is just the latest investment by the couple in Purdue University and the state of Indiana. In 2018, they celebrated the groundbreaking of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories’ (SEL) electric power research-and-development facility in Purdue’s Discovery Park District. The couple also contributed $1.5 million to endow an electrical and computer engineering professorship and another $1.5 million to support the school’s power and energy systems research area, now named Schweitzer Power and Energy Systems. 

A member of the National Academy of Engineering, Ed Schweitzer is a pioneer in power engineering who revolutionized the electrical protection industry by inventing the first digital protective relay in 1982. His grandfather is an 1898 Purdue graduate who developed the first reliable high-voltage fuse. 

Schweitzer started his business in the basement of his Pullman, Washington, home. In 1982, he left Washington State University, where he had earned his Ph.D. and served as a professor, to devote his efforts full time to growing the Pullman-based company into a leading designer and manufacturer of digital relays for the protection, monitoring, automation and control of electric power systems. 

SEL has manufactured products in the United States since 1984 and now serves customers worldwide. The company’s mission is to make electric power safer, more reliable and more economical. Nearly every utility in North America uses SEL products, which can also be found in industrial and commercial power applications in 165 countries. SEL is also one of the region’s largest employers, with more than 5,200 employees worldwide. Schweitzer is an IEEE fellow and received the Purdue University Outstanding Electrical and Computer Engineer Award in 2003 and Distinguished Engineering Alumni Award in 2020.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked the No. 5 Most Innovative University in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at https://purdue.edu/.

Writer: Grant Flora

Media contact: Tim Doty, 765-494-2080, doty2@purdue.edu

Sources: Mitch Daniels, president@purdue.edu

Gary R. Bertoline, bertoline@purdue.edu

Scott Bess, sbess@purdue.edu

Edmund O. Schweitzer III and Beatriz Schweitzer

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