Prof. Schweitzer remembered for contributions to economics, sports
Published: Sunday, September 1, 2013
Updated: Sunday, September 1, 2013 14:09
Robert Schweitzer, the Donald J. Puglisi Professor of Finance and Administration in the Lerner College of Business and Economics who has been with the university since 1980, passed away on July 7 at age 63. His death came after an eight-month battle with bladder cancer, his wife, Mary Schweitzer, said.
Schweitzer was born in Baltimore and received his bachelor’s degree from Towson University, his master’s degree from Delaware and his Ph.D from Duke University. While at Duke studying economics, Schweitzer was a teaching assistant for an economics class, Mary Schweitzer said, and that was where the two met. She said they began dating after the course ended and were eventually married in 1975, the same year Schweitzer earned his Ph.D.
She said Schweitzer then worked in the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in Washington, D.C. In 1980, he began teaching at the university, she said.
Schweitzer loved the university and long aspired to become a professor there, Mary Schweitzer said.
“He told me when we were dating that he was going to Delaware,” Mary Schweitzer said. “That’s where he wanted to teach.”
Finance department chair Helen Bowers said Schweitzer taught mostly finance-related courses, particularly classes related to banking. Mary Schweitzer said her late husband, who specialized in management and regulation of financial institutions, also frequently taught banking courses at other colleges during the summer.
Schweitzer had a passion for teaching and was very popular with his students, James Butkiewicz, chair of the Department of Economics, said.
“His students loved him,” Butkiewicz said. “He was a very popular professor, interacted very well with them.”
During Schweitzer’s tenure, the finance department, which at the time was just a subset of the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics, formed into its own department, Bowers said. Schweitzer then became the department’s first chairman, she said. He held that role from 1990 to 1997, according to his resume.
“The field of finance, over the years, had come to really differentiate itself from the other business fields, especially in terms of that we took so much, theoretically, from economics and so becoming our own department really abled us to build out intellectually and keep up with what was going on both academically and in practice,” Bowers said.
As chair, Schweitzer hired a number of professors and helped establish the finance department, Butkiewicz said.
“He leaves a legacy first and foremost as an outstanding teacher who really cared about students,” he said. “He was a dedicated scholar.”
In addition to his work teaching, Schweitzer also was involved in research, Mary Schweitzer said. According to Schweitzer’s resume, he published more than 40 papers or books.
Bowers said Schweitzer contributed to the university in a variety of ways.
“His legacy is in how many different areas, I think, of this university’s life where he played a specific and significant role,” she said.
Mary Schweitzer said her late husband was a big sports fan who grew up rooting for the Baltimore Orioles and Colts. He was also very involved in lacrosse as a referee and administrator, officiating games for both high school and college, she said.
“He literally wrote the high school rules,” she said.
Schweitzer was also a factor in Delaware athletics, Bowers stated in an email message. She said he helped recruit athletes, was the head of university’s Professional Sports Counseling Panel and was a member of the university’s NCAA Compliance Committee, which works to ensure coaches and athletes are aware of the NCAA’s rules.
The news of his illness came as a shock, Bowers said, as Schweitzer exercised frequently, lived a healthy lifestyle and did not appear ill. Mary Schweitzer said by the time the cancer was discovered, it had already metastasized.
This past spring, Schweitzer continued to teach despite his illness, running a research seminar, Bowers said.
Mary Schweitzer said her late husband, who is survived by two children and two grandchildren, had an impact on a large number of people.
“His students are all over the place,” she said. “We couldn’t go into an airport without running into someone.”