The founder of the Fetzer Institute, John Earl Fetzer (1901-1991), held a keen interest in the relationship between the inner life of spirit and the outer life of service in the world. He founded the Institute on the belief that efforts to address the world’s critical issues must go beyond political, social, and economic strategies—and address the psychological and spiritual roots of these issues.
Trained as an electrical engineer, John E. Fetzer began his career in 1931 by designing, building, and operating his own radio station that he then expanded into a Michigan-based, multistate broadcasting empire including radio, television, cable, and closed-circuit music transmission. In his private life, John Fetzer had an intense intellectual curiosity about the "unseen elements" of life. He studied various forms of meditation, prayer, philosophy, and positive thinking, and explored alternative ways of healing. Throughout his life he was also passionately interested in baseball, an enthusiasm that led him to purchase the Detroit Tigers baseball club. In his later years, the sale of the team and his media holdings resulted in the endowment of the Fetzer Institute.