Dr. Robert R. Spitzer, nearly 97, passed away Tuesday, April 30, 2019 at his home.
Born in Waukesha County on May 4, 1922, he was the son of John and Ruth (nee St. George) Spitzer. He spent his early life on his parent’s farm in Waukesha County and started his education in a one room school house. He was a graduate of Wauwatosa East High School and is on their Hall of Fame. After high school, Dr. Spitzer earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Agriculture, and both master’s and doctoral degrees majoring in animal nutrition, biochemistry and medical physiology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He frequently spoke nationally and internationally at universities and seminars.
In 1946, he was united in marriage to Marie Woerfel. They were married for 49 years. She preceded him in death on February 25, 1996. On July 4, 1997, he was united in marriage to Delores (nee Schranz) Wilfert. They resided in Burlington following their marriage and were married for 21 years before his passing.
Dr. Spitzer was President Emeritus of the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE). As president of MSOE (1977-1991), he was known as the “businessman president” where he innovated financial and management charting systems. A team approach to management and strong financial discipline attracted national attention to the school which was founded in 1903. Under Dr. Spitzer’s leadership, undergraduate and graduate degree programs expanded incorporating international dimensions and global awareness into the MSOE mission. A Uihlein/Spitzer Professorship of Entrepreneurship was endowed by Mr. Daveid Uihlein, Sr. Today, graduates of MSOE are highly sought after because of their excellence in engineering, entrepreneurship, business enterprise and national awareness.
Prior to leading MSOE, Dr. Spitzer’s experience included 28 years at Murphy Products Co., a nationally known agribusiness firm located in Burlington, Wisconsin, where he served as Director of Research, Executive Vice President, President and CEO, and Chairman of the Board. Industry leaders chose him as President of the American Feed Manufacturer’s Association, the largest U.S. agricultural trade association. He also served as a member of the Committee on Animal Research of the National Academy of Sciences and held the position of President of the Wisconsin Manufacturer’s Association.
After retiring from Murphy Products Co., Dr. Spitzer was appointed and served by president Gerald Ford as Coordinator of the U.S. State Department’s Food for Peace Program in Washington, D.C. It was an effort that served 50 countries. He participated in the World Food Program in Rome as a citizen advisor and a delegate of the United States.
He is the Founding Chairman of the Norman Vincent Peale Guideposts Advisory Cabinet. He has authored numerous books and articles and is a four-time recipient of the George Washington Freedom Foundation Award for his film and literary work. He has three honorary degrees and is recognized as an accomplished lecturer throughout the nation. Dr. Spitzer also served as a Director or Trustee to numerous companies, some of which include: Roundy’s Foods, Maple Leaf Farms, Tracy Seed Company, Egg Products Company, State Financial Bank and the Bank of Burlington. In addition, Dr. Spitzer worked with Fiduciary Management, Inc. as the Director for the Fiduciary Capital Growth and the Fiduciary Total Return Funds. Before his passing, he continued involvement with numerous civic and business organizations. He was a 60-year member of Rotary International and past president of both Milwaukee and Burlington, Wisconsin clubs. He was a 33rd Degree Mason and served as Director and Senior Mentor of Kikkoman Foods, Inc. of Walworth, Wisconsin and Tokyo, Japan.
Always feeling a strong personal respect for teaching as well as research, in 1968 he established the Spitzer Excellence in Teaching Award. It is awarded annually by the UW College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to a teacher selected by the College. In 2010, Dr. Spitzer received the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Charles Van Hise Award for Distinction in Education. Throughout his distinguished career, Dr. Spitzer was the recipient of many awards and distinctions too numerous to mention. He was an avid conservative and supported many candidates all over the United States.
Robert is survived by his wife, Delores. He is also survived by his children, Jeff (Judith, nee McNeel) Spitzer, Susan, nee Spitzer (Tommy) Costello; Delores’ children, Rose Wilfert, Paul Wilfert, Mark (Amy nee Trio) Wilfert and Anne, nee Wilfert (Walter) Mueller; grandchildren, Sarah (Al) Josing, Kevin (Jessica) Spitzer, Erin Spitzer, Morgan nee Spitzer (Eric) Mumm, Jared (Hannah Schambow) Spitzer and Hailey Costello; Delores’ grandchildren, Bradley (Joy) Elverman, Abby Wilfert, David Wilfert, Lucas Mueller and Josef Mueller; great-grandchildren, Jordan Josing, Brett Josing, Wakelin Mumm and Lydia Spitzer; and Delores’ great-grandchildren, Marissa Mata, Miklos Mata and Scott Elverman.
Robert was preceded in death by his parents; first wife, Marie; son and daughter-in-law, John and Julie Spitzer; and brother and sister-in-law, Eugene and Sarah “Sally” Spitzer.
In lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made to St. John the Divine Church, 216 E. Chandler Blvd., Burlington, WI 53105 OR Milwaukee School of Engineering Robert and Marie Spitzer Scholarship Fund, 1025 N. Broadway, Milwaukee, WI 53201.
A PRIVATE memorial service will take place at St. John the Divine Episcopal Church.
Relatives and friends may visit with the family on May 11, 2019 from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m. at Veterans’ Terrace, 589 Milwaukee Ave, Burlington, WI 53105.
Overflow parking will be available at the former Lynch Auto Dealership lot adjacent to Best Value Flooring at 941 Milwaukee Ave., Burlington. Shuttle service will be provided. Additional parking within walking distance is available at the City of Burlington parking structure at the corner of Dodge and Chestnut Streets.
Schuette-Daniels Funeral Home & Crematory
625 S. Browns Lake Drive
Burlington, WI 53105