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Minister ran Goodwill with heart, head

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By Bill Zlatos
Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

As a child, the Rev. Robert S. Foltz watched his father spend time with the elderly — acts that influenced him as president and CEO of the former Goodwill Industries of Pittsburgh, which he helped turn into one of the largest social service agencies in the region.

“(It) was influential in letting him see firsthand the needs of other people,” said his wife, Nan Foltz of Mt. Lebanon.

The Rev. Robert S. Foltz died Sunday, April 14, 2013, in Asbury Heights nursing home in Mt. Lebanon. He was 73.

He led Goodwill Industries of Pittsburgh, which trains and employs people with disabilities, from 1977 until retiring in 2002.

“He found a way to employ, train and give opportunities to thousands of people who basically had been discarded,” said his son, Nelson Foltz of Brooklyn, N.Y.

During his tenure, Goodwill's annual budget grew from $3 million to more than $30 million, the number of employees went from about 150 to 850, and the number of stores grew from eight to 22.

“Bob understood early on that it not only was a human service organization, but also needed to be run as a business because the more profit that we generated, the more people that we could serve,” said Mike Smith, 57, of Washington, whom the Rev. Foltz hired as controller in 1989. Smith succeeded him as president and CEO.

The Rev. Foltz was born to Joseph W. and Nannette Harris Foltz in Wilkinsburg. His father was an auditor for an insurance company who died when his son was about 15.

After graduating from Wilkinsburg High School, he received a bachelor's degree from Westminster College, a master's degree of divinity from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington and a master's degree in social work from the University of Pittsburgh.

He met his wife when both were students at the seminary.

In 1962, he was ordained a minister of the United Methodist Church. He served parishes in Rogersville, Meadville and Pittsburgh; was chaplain at George Junior Republic in Grove City, a residential facility for at-risk youth; and executive director of the Ward Home for Children in Mt. Lebanon.

When he retired, Goodwill named its headquarters, then on the South Side, as the Robert S. Foltz Building.

In addition to his wife, Nan, and son, Nelson, Mr. Foltz is survived by his son, Drayton Foltz of Mt. Lebanon; and brother, Joseph Foltz of Sewickley Hills.

A Service of Celebration will be held at 11 a.m. Friday in Smithfield United Church of Christ, 620 Smithfield St., Downtown. Burial will be private. The Smith Funeral Home in West Middlesex, Mercer County, is handling the arrangements.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Robert S. Foltz Building, 118 52nd St., Pittsburgh, PA 15201.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or

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