OpEd

The invisible billionaire with visible work

On German Dieter Schwarz, philanthropy, society, the future of artificial intelligence and the Technical University of Zurich (ETH)

1.

Last Friday it was announced that Dieter Schwarz, former head of Lidl, a German chain of stores spread across many European countries, will donate a record amount to the Technical University of Zurich (ETH) with which this prestigious school over the next 30 years will finance 20 chairs (in Zürich and in Heilbronn, Germany). The newspaper "Tages Anzeiger" writes that the amount donated by 84-year-old Dieter Schwarz is supposed to be among the largest donations or perhaps the largest donation to Swiss science. Some sources say that Schwarz donated 100 million francs to ETH, while other people assume that the amount donated is around 500 million francs.

The Technical University of Zurich (ETH) organized a press conference to inform the public about this happy news. Dieter Schwarz did not attend the conference. He does not willingly appear in the public opinion. A year ago, the German newspaper "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" asked: "Does Dieter Schwarz really exist?" A representative of him came to Zürich on Friday and explained that it will not be disclosed how much money Dieter Schwarz has donated. "I consider the mention of large numbers to be boastful": these words were conveyed to the public by the philanthropist Schwarz through his representative. According to "Forbes" magazine, Schwarz's wealth is estimated to be 35 billion francs.

The Technical University of Zurich (ETH) has signed a statement with Dieter Schwarz to establish a research center for "responsible digital transformation with global radiation". To date, 22 Nobel Prizes have been awarded to scientists who are or have been employed at ETH. Prizes are divided for chemistry and physics. Among the awardees are two Croatian scientists: Leopold Ružička (1939) and Vladimir Prelog (1975), who taught at ETH. The most famous student of ETH is Albert Einstein (later professor at ETH).

Dieter Schwarz does not give interviews. He lives away from the public eye. The media has no official photos of him. However, Dieter Schwarz exists. He was born on September 24, 1939 in Heilbronn, Baden-Württemberg. As a high school student, he spent a year in the USA (as a scholarship holder of the American Field Service). After qualifying as a salesman in his father's firm Lidl & Schwarz, he took on management positions in this grocery company. In 1977 (the year his father died), Schwarz took over the management of the enterprise. In 2022, Lidl had 575 thousand workers worldwide, 13.700 subsidiaries and an annual turnover of 154 billion euros. In 1999, Schwarz established a foundation through which he has supported over 700 institutions and initiatives in the fields of science and education. While, now we have fun with ChatGPT, in the future artificial intelligence software will revolutionize the world of work, economy, education and many other areas of life. Dieter Schwarz wants to leave his mark in this field.

2.

When at the end of September "Swissalbs" was held in Zürich, an evening for evaluating the innovative and creative potential of Albanian entrepreneurs in Switzerland, the attendees were addressed by Vllaznim Xhiha, a philanthropist known in Kosovar opinion as the founder of the "Bonevet" project. which aims to create creative space for students for technical training in programming, electrotechnics and mechanics. One of the most beautiful and wisest sentences in the speech of Vllaznim Xhiha in Zürich was this: if you have become rich, don't think that you created that wealth yourself; there are plenty of people who have accompanied you on your journey and made it possible for you to succeed. Consequently, you would have to return some of the wealth to society.

Vllaznim Xhiha founded the company "Newave" in Switzerland in 1993, which specialized in the production of devices that enable uninterrupted supply of electricity. In 2011 this company had an annual turnover of 84 million francs and exported to over 60 countries. In 2012 Xhiha and his business partner sold the enterprise to the large company ABB Schweiz. ABB paid the purchase price in cash. Xhiha decided to donate a part of his wealth to the youth of Kosovo; returned to Kosovo and founded "Bonevet". Since the Technical University of Zürich (ETH) was mentioned in the first part of this text: in all probability the first Albanian student at ETH was Vllaznim Xhiha (in the 70s).

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