Robert H. Forrester Discusses Newman’s Own and Veterans

Bob Forrester

August 31, 2021

Robert H. Forrester Discusses Newman’s Own and Veterans

Paul Newman, the Hollywood movie start and founder of Newman’s Own, and Robert H. Forrester, Paul’s successor as Chief Executive Office of Newman’s Own, were close personal friends with many interests and experiences in common. Central to these was their belief in the potential within everyone to help make the world a better place and their commitment to philanthropy. Their friendship began around an initiative to build therapeutic camps for children with life-limiting medical conditions. For years, the two friends had collaborated on numerous nonprofit projects around the world before Bob became part of Newman’s Own.

An experience they both shared, which helped shape their outlooks, was serving in the military during a time of war. Paul Newman volunteered for the US Navy during WWII and became a radioman gunner assigned to an Avenger Torpedo Bomber squadron in the Pacific theater. About 25 years later, Robert H. Forrester enlisted in the US Army and served as a first lieutenant in Vietnam from 1968-1969. Through those experiences, they developed a deep respect for the men and women who serve and veterans. They also developed an understanding of the sacrifices these individuals and their families make to help protect America’s freedoms and way of life. They also understood how the special needs of these people are too often forgotten by society and were active in bringing attention and support to this deficit. Upon Paul Newman’s passing, Bob decided to bring this commitment to the forefront of Newman’s Own grantmaking as a priority.

“In the context of the mega-foundations in America, Newman’s Own was not a large source of funds, but what we did have was the ability to see a need and respond to it quickly, while also using our visibility and reputation to draw the attention and resources of others to help meet that need, this was the pillar upon which I developed our military service and veteran’s support program,” said former Newman’s Own CEO, Robert H. Forrester.  “I knew from experience that people in the military and veterans are among the most highly motivated and self-reliant of people. They are not looking for others to do things for them, rather help in reducing barriers, many caused by their service,  standing between them and their potential. This fit perfectly with our empowerment priority, with the added benefit of knowing the more independent we could help people become, the less the cost to society, and more importantly, to the individual’s self-esteem and dignity.”

As an example of how Bob turned this perspective into action, upon learning that the VA could not pay for guide dogs for blinded veterans, Bob set about creating a special veterans’ program with the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation in Bloomfield. Ct., to streamline a worry-free process for blinded veterans to get their own specially bred and trained guide dogs.

“While losing one’s sight is a terrible thing to contemplate for anyone, I was especially appalled by the thought that someone blinded in combat might need to add the worry of securing a guide dog to what surely was a whole lot of disruption, anguish, and despair in his or her life,” noted Forrester. “The first recipient of a Fidelco guide dog under this program was one of the most inspiring young men I could ever hope to meet, Michael Malarsie. Michael was air force special operations and 30 days into his first deployment to Afghanistan his patrol was ambushed. Several of his buddies were killed, and Michael lost his sight. After he received his magnificent Fidelco German Shepperd, Xxon, he told me all I needed to hear to know this was the right thing to do, ‘The difference now is I don’t need to wait for people to come and get me, I can get up and go myself do it myself with Xxon.’  After finishing up his rehab. Michael went back on active duty in the Air Force, and since has continued his education and is raising a family, he is an inspiration to me.”

During Robert H. Forrester’s close to 11 years as CEO of Newman’s Own Foundation, more than $25 million was donated to programs serving the men and women of the military, veterans, and their families, including the Hidden Heroes initiative of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, Farmers and Veteran’s Coalition, Work Vessels to for Veterans, Fisher House, Newman’s Own Military Awards, Headstrong, Dog Tag, and Team Rubicon to name but a few.