An Enduring Legacy
The Switzer Prize is named in recognition of Irma and Norman Switzer, a Pacific Palisades couple who bequeathed a major gift to the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Friends remembered them as humble people who lived modest lives and liked to work with their hands.
Norman Switzer, a Korean War veteran, devised the concept of adding benches to bus stops throughout Los Angeles. In exchange for funding and building the benches, the city awarded his company a 20-year exclusive on advertising.
Norman Bench Ads
Bus-bench ads became known in the industry as “Norman Bench Ads” – a nod to his advertising company and his concept. Switzer later sold the business and became a real estate investor, often working on the properties himself. Norman Switzer died in 2011 at the age of 84.
Irma Switzer, an accomplished weaver and member of the Palisades Weavers group, physically built two homes in Manhattan Beach with a friend. She died in 2013 at the age of 93.
In their will, the Switzers left $50 million to the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, for use on priorities selected by school leaders. When the gift was announced in 2014, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block called it “an enduring legacy of two people who clearly cared about the future of medicine and science.”
Repairing People, Making Discoveries
In their honor, the UCLA Health Sciences Plaza was renamed the Irma and Norman Switzer Plaza – a location traversed by thousands of physicians, scientific researchers and students.
At the naming ceremony, a friend said Norman Switzer liked to invest in people who knew how to fix things - which is “the heart of medicine, repairing people and making discoveries - and by giving to UCLA, he was giving to the guys who ‘fix stuff’.”
The couple was also involved with the Fowler Museum at UCLA and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.