Alumni couple commits $5.5 million to enhance student experiences at Gettysburg College

Joan ’76 and Rick Schweizer ’76 in front of Penn Hall
Joan ’76 and Rick Schweizer ’76 have made a commitment of $5.5 million in support of the College’s Strategic Direction.

Gettysburg College provided Trustee Emerita Joan Fischer Schweizer ’76 and Rick Schweizer ’76 with rewarding and impactful experiences that prepared them both for successful professional careers. Those experiences, much like those being explored by students today as part of Gettysburg’s unique approach to learning—The Gettysburg Approach—sparked their desire to make a lasting and significant impact on the future of the institution.

Inspired by the College’s Strategic Direction and the promise of providing today’s students with A Consequential Education, the Schweizers have made a commitment of $5.5 million toward several of the institution’s top priorities, including the Gettysburg Fund, global study, academic scholarship, and student-faculty research.

“On behalf of our entire Gettysburg College community, I want to express our deepest thanks to Joan and Rick for their inspiring commitment. In so many ways, it is representative of the Schweizers’ vision, leadership, dedication, and above all, their fervent belief in the good our students and graduates can do out in the world,” said President Bob Iuliano. “Thanks to the Schweizers’ generosity, generations of future Gettysburgians will have the opportunity to follow in their footsteps and have a lasting impact on their communities.”

“It's something that we have talked about our entire marriage,” Rick said. “We met at Gettysburg and 48 years later, we're still at it, and we're still together. We've always tried to support the College, and we wanted to do something more. We've just been looking toward this goal and now that we've been retired for a while, we think financially we’re able to do something fairly significant and we finally stepped up and made it.”

Their commitment—larger than any commitment made by a living donor during the Gettysburg Great Campaign (2011-2018)—will have a significant impact across campus and build on the generous support the couple has provided to the College over the last several decades. Already longtime annual contributors to the Gettysburg Fund, they have established the first-ever endowment that will provide continued support of the Gettysburg Fund in perpetuity. The Gettysburg Fund makes a profound impact on campus, supporting students in a multitude of endeavors as they aspire to make the world a better place through creativity and leadership.

“Gettysburg did a great job of preparing us for our careers and our experiences in our careers,” Joan said. “I think looking back, if it weren't for Gettysburg, I'm not sure we would have done as well as we have done. Gettysburg helped us get to where we are today.”

Jack Hopkins dig outside Pennsylvania Hall
Students working with Prof. Ben Luley and Prof. Kirby Farah continue the Jack Hopkins dig outside Pennsylvania Hall last fall.

Scholarship and experiential learning are among the couple’s top philanthropic priorities, and they are at the heart of the commitment’s funding initiatives. The Joan Fischer Schweizer ’76 and Eric B. Schweizer ’76 Endowed Scholarship Fund will be awarded to students focusing on economics or management who demonstrate financial need, while a newly created endowed fund for study abroad in their name will expand the opportunities students have to enhance their intercultural fluency while exploring the world around them.

“We realize how important it is to have funds available for students who wouldn't otherwise have these experiences at Gettysburg,” said Joan, noting the couple’s passion for travel and exploring other cultures around the world. “Being able to support students in multiple ways was important to us, so that they could have some of the same experiences that we had at Gettysburg.”

Joan majored in business and minored in accounting, while Rick pivoted from following the path of his father, Leslie R. Schweizer ’45, and brother, Thomas C. Schweizer ’73, in physics to a focus on economics. Both enjoyed leadership roles in their respective Greek organizations, Joan as an officer in Chi Omega and Rick as the steward of Phi Sigma Kappa. Rick was also a member of the Chapel Choir, and served as the group’s manager during his senior year. That experience with the college choir eventually paved the way for Rick to join a semi-professional choral group after graduation and take part in performances at both the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall.

“Gettysburg did a great job of preparing us for our careers and our experiences in our careers. I think looking back, if it weren't for Gettysburg, I'm not sure we would have done as well as we have done. Gettysburg helped us get to where we are today.”
Joan Schweizer ’76

Following graduation Joan, who was also Phi Beta Kappa, joined the accounting firm Deloitte & Touche LLP where she remained for nearly four decades as a Managing Director until her retirement in 2016. Rick used his versatile economics degree to enter the business community, working as Treasurer at Watson, Wyatt, & Company for a decade and serving as Chief Operating Officer at Milestone Merchant Partners. After the company was acquired by Houlihan Lokey, Inc., Rick became Vice President of Administration before retiring in 2017.

Reflecting on their time at Gettysburg and the success they found as they grew in their respective careers, both Joan and Rick are quick to note the impact of the education and experiences they encountered as undergrads as crucial building blocks to that success.

“Whether you're a business major, a biology major, or an economics major, it's the pieces that come together—writing, communication, teamwork, and other enduring skills—that are part of the education that you get at Gettysburg, which you probably don't get at a bigger university,” said Joan, who served on the Board of Trustees from 2009 to 2021. “It’s what makes you that well-rounded student who’s going to go out into the world and be able to adapt to any environment.”

Experiments in X-SIG summer program
Students perform research and conduct experiments as part of the X-SIG summer program.

Finally, the commitment also enhances the Leslie R. Schweizer ’45 and Thomas C. Schweizer ’73 Summer Research Grant in Physics Fund, which was created in memory of Rick’s father and brother. The fund, established in 2006, provides support to students and faculty working together on projects and topical issues as part of the Cross-Disciplinary Science Institute at Gettysburg (X-SIG). For Joan and Rick, this fund in particular holds a special place in terms of honoring their family ties to the institution.

“As far as we're concerned, some of this commitment is also giving back to Gettysburg on behalf of the family,” Rick said. “Our family did well because of Gettysburg, and that started with my uncle, my father, my brother, all were there at different times. Then Joan’s sister was there and my sister-in-law. There’s a web of people who have been through the Gettysburg experience at different times, and all have benefited personally and professionally from being there.”

While supporting students and faculty were among the couple’s primary objectives, this commitment also supports their Gettysburg classmates. With their 50th reunion on the horizon, Joan and Rick’s commitment has bolstered the Class of 1976’s reunion gift totals. Thanks to the Schweizers’ commitment and a commitment of $10 million from classmate Daria Lo Presti Wallach ’76 this past fall, the Class of 1976 is poised to break a record for a 50th reunion gift, while providing a strong start to the ambitious fundraising objectives of the College’s comprehensive campaign, currently in the leadership phase.

“I want to express my gratitude to Joan and Rick for their significant commitment to Gettysburg College and our comprehensive campaign,” said Vice President for College Advancement Tres Mullis. “Inspired by their own unique experiences as students at Gettysburg and the opportunity to support their upcoming 50th reunion, Joan and Rick have made an impact on the future of this institution that will be keenly felt by Gettysburgians for generations to come.”

Quarry Pond
Quarry Pond with the Quarry Suites silhouetted in the background.

As the world continues to change and society becomes more unpredictable and complex, it is essential to provide the next generation of students with transformational opportunities that will equip them with the tools needed to adapt and make an impact in the world.

Gettysburg College promises its students A Consequential Education, one that enriches the heart and mind and empowers students to go out and Do Great Work in the world. The Schweizers’ commitment reflects that promise, touching many facets of the learning experience at Gettysburg and creating ample opportunities for growth and exploration.

“The two of us are a consequence of what we went through at Gettysburg, personally with our marriage, what our lives have been like, and on to our professions and how we've been able to turn that into successful careers for the two of us,” Rick said. “Now that we're in retirement, we can enjoy and do the things we want to do, and that's all a consequence of the education and experiences we enjoyed at Gettysburg.”

Learn how you can support Gettysburg College’s mission to prepare our students how to make an impact and build a better world.

By Corey Jewart
Photos by Abbey Frisco
Posted: 02/16/24

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