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Manchester High School
437 West Nimisila Road
Akron, OH 44319
(330) 882-3291

  Stacie Switzer -- MHS Class of 1988
  Senior Legal Counsel, Takeda Pharmaceuticals


Five years ago, married Michael Ruth in an ancient (1100 A.D.) abbey ruin in the border region of Scotland. Our fathers have been best friends since they were about 10 years old, so we knew each other as kids and then met later in life at a family Christmas party. The rest is history! We have one daughter, Madelyn “Maddie” Ruth (4 yrs.), who’s one of those kids that makes people laugh. Lots of antics. She is extremely independent . . . not sure where she got that! I had no idea being a parent would be so fun and rewarding.

Location history:

We currently live in a town called Barrington, which is northwest of downtown Chicago. Prior to Barrington, I spent several years in Columbus, Ohio and downtown Chicago. We really miss living in Chicago, it is a fantastic city. We moved out of the city after Maddie was born. I also lived in Scotland (Glasgow) during my final year of law school. This was a real culture shock!

Education after MHS:

I started my undergraduate work at West Liberty State College in West Virginia, but transferred to Ohio State University to obtain more research experience. I finished up at OSU with a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology. Christine Woods, a fellow MHS alum, and I were roommates at OSU and had a ball! After I graduated from OSU, I accepted a research fellowship in the Department of Cardiovascular Surgery with Northwestern University. I lived 2 blocks from Wrigley Field in Chicago during this time. I think I spent more time at Cubs games than I did on my research efforts!! I moved back to Columbus, Ohio to attend law school at Capital University. I focused my law studies on intellectual property and bioethics (it was a nice combo with my science background). During my final year of Law School, I had the opportunity to study European Union Law, Genetic Law and Medical Ethics at the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

Your Occupation history:

I started my career as a scientist studying cardiovascular transplant rejection and metastatic breast cancer. My original plan was to attend medical school. After a few years conducting research, I switched gears completely. I realized at the very last minute that medical school was not the right path for me. My mentor at the time, a cardiovascular surgeon, urged me to go to law school. He told me I would probably find the course work dull, but the degree would be very versatile. He was right . . . I was not a big fan of the material. I called to remind him of this MANY times. Long story short, I attended law school and focused my coursework on intellectual property and bioethics. I started out working at a law firm and then went in-house with the legal department of a small biotechnology start-up company. My husband’s career took us to Chicago, where I accepted a position with Northwestern University. During this time, I provided legal support for the research and compliance efforts at the University. I currently serve as Senior Counsel with a large pharmaceutical company, Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America, Inc. I am responsible for directing all legal issues relating to the research and development of investigational drugs in the U.S. and approximately 45-50 other countries all over the world. I really enjoy my work.

Spouse’s occupation:

Mike is a Director of Business Strategy with a large transportation company in Chicago. He gets paid to sit at his desk and “think!”

Strangest thing you’ve done since high school:

Jumped out of an airplane

Travel highlights:

I lived abroad (Scotland) during my last year of law school. It was a fantastic experience to live in another culture. It allowed me the opportunity to visit many places in Europe. In fact, one evening in Paris, France, we ran into George Clooney. We had a few cocktails and spent the majority of the evening hanging out with him. I have pictures to prove it! Also, Mike and I enjoy the active outdoors and cycling. We cycled the Scottish Highlands for our honeymoon a few years back. Okay, so it wasn’t romantic in the traditional sense, but we had an amazing time riding though small mountain towns and stopping at little pubs along the way. Last summer, we cycled through central Italy. We rode hard and played harder! Even though we cycled 30-50 miles a day, I gained weight . . . too much food and drink with our fellow German cyclist couple! I also have the opportunity to travel for business. Since I support global activities at my company, I spend time in Europe and Asia. I always try to take some time to enjoy being in a different culture.

Current Hobbies / Activities:

I love to be active. I have completed several marathons in different cities around the U.S. I have also completed several triathlons. My goal is to compete in an Ironman in the next couple of years (2.4-mile swim / 112-mile bike / 26.2-mile run). I was slated to compete in Ironman Coeur D’Alene this June, but had to pull out due to a running injury. Maybe next year…

Other interesting life experiences from the past two decades…

Of all of my life experiences since high school, none have more defining than the last 4 years. Only 9 weeks after Maddie was born, I was diagnosed with a large tumor inside of my spinal cord near the base of my brain. I was originally told that the tumor was not operable and that I would slowly become paralyzed from the neck down. Eventually, the tumor would affect the nerves that feed my diaphragm and I would stop breathing. Basically, I was told that I needed to get my life in order.

After much research and many neurosurgical consults, we learned that the disease was extremely rare and only a handful of surgeons in the U.S. could perform the surgery. Even less had performed a sufficient number of surgeries to be considered an expert. I learned that surgery would come at a great price since the doctors would need to cut open my spinal cord. The risk for this type of tumor is not whether it is highly cancerous or not, because they do not spread outside of the spinal cord. Instead, the risk was in the location of the tumor and the type of surgery required in removing it. I had an extremely high risk of paralysis from the neck down. On the other hand, I had no choice since doing nothing would result in death.

A twist of fate landed me in the office of my hero, Dr. Edward Mrkdichian. After reviewing my case, he determined that I need to have surgery immediately before I lost any ability to move. We scheduled the surgery and I spent the next couple of weeks preparing my body for surgery. The surgery took nearly 7 hours, during which Dr. Mrkdichian had to remove the spinal process of 5 vertebrae. He carefully cut open my spinal cord and began the long process of scraping away the tumor. Because the tumor had infiltrated my spinal cord, he was unable to remove it entirely. When I awoke from surgery, I was completely numb from my neck down. I lost all use of my right arm and I was unable to stand or walk without assistance. Despite all of this, I was able move my fingers and toes. And this thrilled me.

The recovery for this type of surgery is nearly 5 years long. The next year and half consisted of intensive physical and occupational therapy 5 days a week. Dr. Christine Villoch was the medical doctor that coordinated my rehabilitation. I was so determined to gain my life back, that I dedicated myself entirely to getting better. Dr. Villoch, also a runner, was equally as dedicated as I. I had to learn to do daily tasks like brushing my hair and teeth all over again. I had to learn to dress myself. I had to re-learn how to write. And, I had to learn how to walk again. Once I gained some of my balance back and could take walks outside, I would put Maddie in her baby jogger and walk her to and from daycare. The 2-mile round trip walk took me 2 hours. Prior to my surgery, I could complete a half-marathon (13.1 miles) in less time than it was taking me to walk 2 miles.

Slowly but surely, I began to regain use of my arm and became more independent. The numbness began to dissipate over time.

At my one year follow-up, I was given the permission to try to jog again. My first “run” took place that very afternoon. I laced up my running shoes for the first time since the surgery and headed to a local park area with Mike and Maddie. I pushed Maddie in her jogger for stability and defied all odds when I ran. I was not able to go far, and I was very slow. But I did it and it gave me a great sense of hope that I could get my life back.

I ran, swam or cycled nearly every day in an attempt to get stronger. Dr. Villoch and I met every Saturday morning to “run” together. As time went by, our “runs” actually turned into real running. She has become one of my closest friends. Two years after my surgery, I found myself at the starting line of the Las Vegas Marathon with Mike and Dr. Villoch on either side of me. For 26.2 miles I recalled the past 2 years of my life. The feelings experienced in not being able to hold my newborn for the first 6 weeks after surgery. The frustration that came with the inability to do the little things we take for granted like holding a utensil, brushing my hair and dressing myself. The determination that I could not let my illness get the best of me continually motivated me. I cannot put into words the emotion I felt when I crossed the finish line. The end of that marathon represented a new beginning for me. And there at the finish line were a few of the people that selflessly saw me through all of it: Mike, Maddie, Dr. Villoch and my Dad. Even though the time it took me to run this marathon was significantly slower than the 3:37 that qualified me for Boston just a few years earlier, it was, by far, my best finish.

Favorite Manchester teachers, and why:

I had so many great teachers at Manchester. I can remember a few of my college professors telling me to thank my English teachers . . . they prepared me well for college. So a big “thank you” to Alice Austin and Scott “Scooter” Cantrell.

Favorite subjects at MHS:

Science and English

Least favorite subjects at MHS:

I was absolutely terrible at Home Economics. It might have been my worst grade in high school. Who had time to pay attention to recipes?

Favorite Manchester memories:

My best memories are from Football and Basketball games, and running track.

Thoughts about attending Manchester schools, in general:

I have very fond memories of Manchester. I was well prepared for the workload in college. Most importantly, Manchester was small enough that I didn’t feel lost in a sea of students. My teachers cared about our education and wanted to see us succeed.

What sports, if any, did you play or letter in at MHS?

I was a gymnast for most of my life. Manchester did not have a gymnastics team, so I competed through a private club, “Gymnastics of Ohio.” I was a varsity cheerleader at Manchester and lettered all three years that I ran track at MHS.

Which H.S. reunions have you attended? And do you have a favorite memory from any of them?

I attended our 10 year reunion. It was so good to see all of the familiar faces. The big 2-0 will be coming up in the next couple of years….

How did you have any favorite high school “hangouts?”

We spent a lot of time rotating between the Lindeman’s, the Pugh’s, the Mooney’s and the O’Dears.

Favorite TV shows . . . then & now:

I cannot remember what my favorite TV show was way back then, but I am completely embarrassed to admit that I am an American Idol addict.

Biggest Pet Peeve since your graduation:

Losing touch with old friends.

If you could re-do or change one thing, what might that be…?

I would not change a thing.

Do you still have family living in Manchester? And how often do you return to your hometown?

I still have family in town and visit Manchester a couple of times a year. It is always good to come home.

You can contact Stacie by email at: or

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