Nov. 13: Schweitzer to receive top alumni award

By Tina Hilding, Voiland College of Engineering & Architecture

Ed-Schweitzer-80PULLMAN, Wash. – Edmund O. Schweitzer III, founder and president of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories and a pioneer in digital protection for the electric power grid, will receive the 2014 Regents’ Distinguished Alumnus Award, Washington State University’s highest alumni honor.

A reception – followed by the award presentation and lecture, “Serving the Electrical World from the Home of WSU” – will begin at 3:15 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 13, in the CUB junior ballroom at WSU Pullman. RSVP to attend at

“Ed Schweitzer has made a significant contribution to society, improving the lives of anyone who has ever turned on a light switch in their home,’’ said WSU President Elson S. Floyd. “I believe we will see the impact of his work for generations to come in a power grid that is safer, more efficient and resilient, and I am proud to award our university’s highest alumni award to him.’’

After completing his doctorate at WSU in 1977, Schweitzer was a faculty member at Ohio University and then WSU before starting his business, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, in the basement of his Pullman home. In 1982, he left the university to devote his efforts full time to the company, which is headquartered in Pullman.

SEL is a leading designer and manufacturer of digital protective relays for monitoring and control of electric power systems. Nearly every utility in North America uses SEL products, which can also be found in industrial and commercial power applications.

SEL is one of the largest employers in the region and contributes significantly to its economy. The company employs 3,700 people and sells products in 144 countries.

Schweitzer’s work to develop computer-based protection and control technology has led to safer and more reliable generation, transmission and distribution for the electric power grid.  Compared to traditional electromechanical protective relays, the digital methods he developed and commercialized help to prevent, locate and limit power outages more quickly and provide detailed reports that help users improve the system.

Schweitzer is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), an honor bestowed on less than one percent of the association’s membership. In 2012, he received the group’s highest award, the Medal in Power Engineering, for leadership in revolutionizing the performance of electrical power systems.

He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a recipient of WSU’s Alumni Achievement Award and Purdue University’s Outstanding Electrical and Computer Engineer Award.

He holds approximately 100 patents in the areas of electric power system protection, metering, monitoring and control and has written dozens of papers. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Purdue.

Since 1962, the Regents’ Distinguished Alumnus Award has been given to alumni who have made significant contributions to society and, through their accomplishments, have brought attention to the quality of a WSU education. Previous winners include broadcaster Edward R. Murrow, author Sherman Alexie, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, cartoonist Gary Larson, astronaut John Fabian, sports broadcaster Keith Jackson and wheat researcher Orville Vogel. Schweitzer is the 45th recipient.

For more about the award, see To nominate someone for the award, go to


Tina Hilding, WSU Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture, 509-335-5095,

Ana Burton, WSU events coordinator, 509-335-5249,