June 29, 2009
John W. Fisher
Speaking on behalf of the entire Ball State University community, President Jo Ann M. Gora expressed deep sadness at the passing of John Fisher, longtime friend and benefactor of the university, who died June 28 following an extended battle with leukemia. He was 93.
Formerly the president and chairman of Ball Corporation, Fisher remained an active proponent of Ball State, Muncie and Delaware County as chairman of the Ball Brothers Foundation until his death.
"Given all that he was involved in and all that he accomplished during so many years, it is difficult to find sufficient words to describe the sense of loss we are feeling today," Gora said. "John Fisher was a businessman of remarkable insight and skill, a community leader of extraordinary vision and commitment, and a supporter of Ball State — in terms of both time and treasure — unequaled in the university's 90-year history.
"He also was a gentleman in every best sense of that word. Thoughtful and measured in his analysis and response to any issue or problem, however imposing or controversial, John always looked for the best in people and his quiet dignity in all of his interactions, personal as well as professional, is a lasting model for us all. The university is forever indebted to John Fisher for his great friendship, wise counsel and profound generosity, and we extend our deepest sympathies to Janice Fisher and the entire Fisher family."
Ben Hancock, vice president for university advancement, characterized the extent of Fisher's giving as both inspired and transformative.
"John and his wife Janice have been very forward-thinking in their bountiful support of the university," Hancock said. "Their many gifts over the years have made a real impact. And this does not include support from the Ball Brothers Foundation, where John also played a key role in making grants to Ball State possible."
Among the couple's most notable gifts was $2 million in 1988 to establish the John & Janice Fisher Chair in Exercise Science, a contribution that also helped finance the construction of Worthen Arena. In recognition of their magnanimity, the university renamed its existing wellness institute the John & Janice Fisher Institute for Wellness and Gerontology.
In 2000, the Fishers also donated $4.35 million to create the Fisher Distinguished Professorship in Wellness and Gerontology as well as an endowed chair in the same field. The latter gift also helped the university develop a community wellness outreach program and expand Scheumann Stadium to include the Fisher Training Complex.
Chairman of the Drive to Distinction Stadium Campaign Committee, Fisher held national campaign committee posts for the university's "Wings for the Future" fundraising effort (ending in 1993 with contributions in excess of $44 million) and "Above and Beyond" campaign (concluded in 2002 with receipts nearing $113 million), as well.
Until his death, he also served on the national campaign committee for Ball State Bold: Investing in the Future, the university's current capital campaign with a goal of $200 million.
A member of the Ball State Founders Society, Museum Founders Circle, Beneficence Society and Cardinal Varsity Club, Fisher was recognized by the university with an honorary doctor of laws degree in 1972. He was awarded the President's Medal of Distinction in 1998. The honorary degree and President's Medal are the two highest honors that the university can bestow.
In addition, Fisher's friends and colleagues in 1987 established the John W. Fisher Faculty Research Fellowships in American Business and American Politics as a measure of respect for the one-time Ball State executive-in-residence's many years of service to American industry and his lifelong interest in American commerce and politics.