Many CEOs do well. Some also do good.
Ed Schollmaier, the 2015 recipient of the Exchange Club of Fort Worth’s Golden Deeds Award on May 10, did – and does – both.
Schollmaier is a rarity among CEOs. He worked for one company – Alcon – almost his entire career and was CEO from 1972 to 1997. “I had 25 years, which is a blessing because very few CEOs get to put in more than six or seven years. In 25 years, you can take a long-term look,” he said, and “you can correct your mistakes.”
Alcon’s website timeline reports that during his tenure, sales grew from $36 million to $2 billion and the company became the world’s largest ophthalmic company. The Swiss food company Nestlé bought Alcon in 1978. Alcon merged with the Switzerland-based global health care company Novartis in 2011, giving Novartis 100 percent ownership of Alcon.
Schollmaier was born in Cincinnati in 1933 to German immigrant parents who met in the United States. He attended the University of Cincinnati, where he met his future wife in an English class. He and Rae Schollmaier would be married 60 years, until her death last year.
He studied at the Harvard business school, where he met Bob Alexander, one of the founders of Alcon along with Bill Connor, who was attending an advanced management program. That led him to Alcon after graduation.
Schollmaier says that he and Rae had been longtime supporters of the arts and other community causes on a small scale but that the sale to Nestlé led them to launch their foundation when they set aside a large amount of their stock. A Harvard classmate managed the money for the foundation.
“He did a brilliant job growing that thing, and we started giving away like $40,000 or $50,000 a year,” Schollmaier said. Those gifts grew over the years to around $2.5 million a year.
Many groups and agencies large and small, well-known and obscure, benefitted from the Schollmaiers’ donations in Fort Worth and across the globe, but the $10 million lead gift for the $72 million renovation of what was Texas Christian University’s Daniel-Meyer Coliseum led to renaming the basketball facility as the Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena in 2015. They previously donated to the Ed and Rae Schollmaier Basketball Complex, which opened in 2004. Schollmaier has been a TCU trustee since 1996 and was a member of the Neeley School International Board of Visitors and the recipient of Neeley’s Ike Harrison Award.
Schollmaier’s interest in community trusteeship started early.
“When I was a freshman in high school, the United Way in Cincinnati wanted to do a test or experiment to see whether they could develop a young speakers’ group, and I was selected,” he said. The students visited many of the United Way participant agencies. “We went to Goodwill, and we went to the orphanage and things like that. I did this enthusiastically and spoke to PTA groups all around,” he said.
That interest and spirit carried over into his tenure as CEO of Alcon.
“We were the No. 1 United Way supporter during that whole period. We supported just about … anything that justified doing it. We had a committee that did that, and we started a foundation at Alcon,” he said. “It was a very generous company. In the period of 20 years at Nestlé, they permitted us to maintain that generosity.”
The Exchange Club refers to its Golden Deeds honoree as “Fort Worth’s Outstanding Citizen” that year.
Ed Schollmaier – along with his late wife – has been that for many years.
Awards and Recognitions
Outstanding Fort Worth Business Executive of 1995, Fort Worth Business Hall of Fame, presented by Texas Wesleyan University and the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce
Distinguished Alumni Award, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Cincinnati, 1999
Distinguished James Kautz Alumni Masters Award (1st presentation), University of Cincinnati, 1999
Ed and Rae Schollmaier Science and Technology Center, Texas Wesleyan University, 2007
Honorary Doctorate of Science, Texas Wesleyan University, 2012
Ike Harrison Award for Distinguished Achievement in Management, 1982, Texas Christian University
Honorary Alumnus Award, 1997, Texas Christian University
Royal Purple Award, Rae and Edgar Schollmaier, 2002, Texas Christian University
Horizon Award, Rae and Edgar Schollmaier, 1992, Texas Christian University
Distinguished Service Award, American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2000
Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena, Texas Christian University, 2015
Ed and Rae Schollmaier Basketball Complex (practice facility), Texas Christian University, 2004
Schollmaier Auditorium Building, Alcon Laboratories Inc., 1998
Delivered 1999 commencement address, Texas Christian University
Featured cover article, “Back to Basics,” 1983, Harvard Business School Alumni Bulletin magazine
First to $1 Billion in Sales Award, West Texas Young Presidents Organization
Organizations Receiving Major Philanthropic Support
From the Schollmaier Foundation
American Red Cross
Amon Carter Museum of American Art
Andover Phillips (MS)2 Program (benefitting disadvantaged minority high school students)
Camp Dudley (YMCA Westport, New York)
Child Study Center
Cook Children’s Hospital
Fort Worth Country Day School
Fort Worth Museum of Science and History
Fort Worth Opera
Fort Worth Symphony
Fort Worth Zoo
James L. West Alzheimer Center
Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute Library
Junior Achievement (scholarships)
Kittaney School (Kenya)
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
Presbyterian Night Shelter
Proyecto Huasteco, Mexico (surgical trips)
Southern Methodist University (South African Music Program)
Texas Ballet Theater
Texas Christian University
Trinity Valley School
United Way of Tarrant County
University of Cincinnati (scholarships)
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (eye research)
YMCA of Greater Fort Worth/SE Expansion
And many others