Schweitzer, SEL gifts energize WSU’s power program

By Brett Stav, Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture

Ed and Beatriz Schweitzer
Ed, Beatriz Schweitzer

PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University’s power engineering program will establish the Edmund O. Schweitzer III Chair in Power Apparatus and Systems in the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture, thanks to gifts totaling $1.5 million from Edmund and Beatriz Schweitzer, and the employee owners of Pullman-based Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories.

“We are humbled by the generosity of Ed and Beatriz, and Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL), and excited by the leadership and vision they demonstrate with the creation of this new endowed chair in Voiland College,” said WSU President Kirk H. Schulz. “The Schweitzers and SEL are writing a new chapter in their legacy for investing in WSU’s faculty and students, and in the greater community for which they call home.”

Power engineering focus

Schweitzer endowment presentation at WSU vs. Nevada-Reno football game, Sept. 23
Schweitzer endowment presentation at WSU vs. Nevada-Reno football game, Sept. 23

The new endowed chair will support WSU’s teaching and research in the fundamentals of power engineering, including electromagnetics, controls, communication theory, high voltage materials and practice, work that is near and dear to the Schweitzers and the employees of SEL.

“At SEL, we like to say the best way to predict the future is to invent it,” said SEL President Edmund O. Schweitzer, III. “This professorship will help generations of students invent their futures by helping them build a strong educational foundation rooted in the fundamentals. We are pleased to strengthen our partnership with WSU through this endowment.”

Thanks in part to the support and advocacy of the Schweitzers and SEL, Voiland College’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science has experienced dramatic growth. Annual research expenditures in the school have more than doubled in the past six years, to $7.6 million annually, with about $4 million of that increase in power engineering research. Enrollment in the school has also doubled to more than 1,000 undergraduates and nearly 200 graduates each year.

During the past two years, SEL has hired more than 10 percent of the school’s graduates, more than any other employer. To date, the Schweitzers and SEL have collectively contributed more than $3.6 million to support students, teaching and research across the university.

“SEL and WSU have enjoyed a remarkable partnership over the years,” said Mary Rezac, dean of WSU’s Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture. “We look forward to our continued collaborations in teaching and research to help meet our society’s growing need for safe, efficient and reliable power systems.”

About Ed Schweitzer

After completing his doctorate at WSU in 1977, Ed Schweitzer was a member of the faculty at WSU and Ohio University 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 growing the Pullman-based company into 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 in 157 countries. SEL is also one of the region’s largest employers, with more than 5,100 employees worldwide.

Schweitzer is a recipient of WSU’s highest alumni honor, the Regents’ Distinguished Alumnus Award. He is also a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), an honor bestowed on less than 1 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 with computer-based protection and control equipment. Schweitzer is also 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.


Media Contacts:

  • Trevor J. Durham, assistant vice president, WSU University Development, 509-335-2093,
  • Brett Stav, public relations/marketing director, Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture, 509-335-8189,