August 2, 2013

Arthur J. “Bill" Fisher (1921-2013)

On Wednesday, July 31 Northwood University lost another incredible friend and supporter with the passing of Arthur J. “Bill” Fisher. Bill—along with his brother Jim, Hannah Baker Church, Frank Gerace, and Jack Finn all of whom passed away since May—leaves a legacy at Northwood that will impact and guide Northwood for generations to come.

Indeed, due in large part to Bill’s generous philanthropy, the Fisher name is a very familiar one on Northwood University’s Midland, Michigan campus. Students, faculty, staff, and visitors alike are well acquainted with the likes of the Arthur J. “Bill” Fisher Track, Bette Fisher Stadium, Fisher Family Fields, and the Fisher Family Trails throughout our campus woods—and with good reason. It was the Fisher family of companies (which included brothers Bill, Jim, and Ralph, and now headed up by Bill’s nephew J.W.), who provided much of the road and sewer infrastructure on our Midland, Michigan campus. In fact, Bill enjoyed driving a bulldozer so much that he would personally spend his free time in the evening hours after work clearing the land that gave rise to our beautiful campus today.

Bill also took the lead in providing land development services, and influenced other contractors to donate their services as well, for the construction of the Gerstacker Athletic Complex. Through his leadership and financial support the renovation of the football stadium and track—which included the addition of the elevator for the press box—was completed.

Bill and his wife Bette were also instrumental in transforming Northwood’s curriculum and the lives of many of its students. In addition to supporting the development of programming and facilities expanding NU’s educational offerings in natural sciences, technology, and engineering management, they also established a significant endowment in honor of their daughters—the Catherine Fisher Webster and Janet Fisher McPeak Endowed Scholarship—for students from nearby Bullock Creek Schools to attend Northwood.

Yet, Bill’s most remarkable achievement may very well be the humility and friendly spirit he exhibited throughout his life. Whenever Northwood tried to recognize him for his efforts—as it did in 2009 when he was enrolled as a supporter in NU’s Michigan Athletic Hall of Fame, in 2010 when he and the entire Fisher Family were presented with the Naegele Distinguished Community Service Award, and again in 2011 when he and Bette were awarded honorary doctorates—he was always reluctant to be publicly recognized and thanked. And throughout his life, including his very last days, his visitors were always welcomed with the warmest of smiles.

Although the sting of Bill’s absence will never quite go away it is the impact of all he did, and even more of who he was, that will endure well beyond the reach of all of us.


Keith A. Pretty, J.D.
President and CEO
Northwood University
4000 Whiting Drive
Midland, MI 48640