Find a Member:

1975 Horatio Alger Award Winner

Robert L. Rice*

President & CEO
Spa Fitness Centers, Inc.

"Success is not just measured in dollars. If you get caught up in what materialism will bring, greed will get hold of you and do you more harm than good."

Robert Rice grew up on a farm near Farmington, Utah. His parents had little formal education and worked on a farm as he was growing up. Frail and thin as a youngster, Rice felt inferior to other boys his age. After graduating from high school, he was inspired by a picture of Atlas holding up the world. He began lifting weights to build his muscles and self-confidence. He also began reading books about successful people, such as Henry Ford, J. C. Penney, and F. W. Woolworth. After winning several body-building contests, he rented a second-floor gymnasium above a grocery store in Salt Lake City.

Rice built his business gradually, selecting high-traffic locations in high-profile population areas for expansion. Investing in clean, modern facilities and more sophisticated equipment, he transformed public perception of gyms from "sweat boxes" to "spas." He also targeted his advertising to a new and untapped market of young, professional men and women. By the 1970s, European Health Spas, Inc. had grown to more than 150 locations with more than 500,000 members.

Today, Rice is universally regarded as one of the leading pioneers of the physical fitness industry. He was appointed to President Nixon's Council of Physical Fitness in 1972, where he served for four years. In 1974, Rice sold European Health Spas, Inc., but returned later to the business and served as chairman of Spa Fitness Centers, Inc. He wrote a syndicated newspaper column in the early in 1970s and compiled many of his columns in his book, Wake Up and Live.

Rice said, "Success is not just measured in dollars. If you get caught up in what materialism will bring, you end up on the wrong track, and eventually greed will get hold of you and do you more harm than good. Believe in yourself and prepare for life's ambition. Success takes hard work, realistic goals, discipline, and acceptance of past mistakes."

* Deceased