President Fisher led the university through a period of tremendous growth during tenure.
The following message was sent to faculty & staff on behalf of Towson University President Kim Schatzel on Friday, Sept. 9:
Dear TU community,
We learned Friday morning of the passing of President Emeritus James L. Fisher, the ninth president of our university who led tremendous growth in the 1970s. Dr. Fisher was 91.
"President Fisher brought Towson University into a contemporary modern university, positioning the university for the growth we continue to achieve. He touched the lives of thousands of Tigers, and mentored many who went on to become leaders for our state. His leadership was transformational, and I stand on his shoulders," President Kim Schatzel said.
Fisher, 38 at the time, accepted the presidency at then-Towson State College in 1969, becoming the ninth president in succeeding Earle T. Hawkins. Fisher led TU during a period of growth, with enrollment increasing from 8,000 to more than 15,000. The campus also expanded significantly during his tenure, adding 11 new buildings during his time as president.
He also led TU during a period of great national and local turmoil, including the civil rights movement and the shootings at Kent State University.
Fisher sought a higher profile for the university. He established five academic deans and four vice presidential positions, introduced a winter academic session and expanded graduate and undergraduate academic offerings. He founded the Academic Council as a legislative and advisory body of faculty and students and created the Office of Institutional Development and the Office of Minority Affairs, led by Dean Julius Chapman. Under his leadership, the university rebranded from Towson State College to Towson State University in 1976. It would become Towson University in 1997.
In 1978, Fisher resigned to become president of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education in Washington, D.C., having achieved his goal of building on TU's roots and establishing a pathway for future advancement.
Fisher was a registered psychologist with a doctorate from Northwestern University. He served as a faculty member at Northwestern, Illinois State, Johns Hopkins, Harvard and Georgia. In addition to his pedagogy and academic leadership service, Fisher conducted hundreds of institutional and governance reviews for universities and university systems, and authored or edited 11 books and scores of professional articles.
A thesis award named by the faculty at Illinois State and a distinguished service award bestowed by CASE bear his name, and he was awarded 12 honorary degrees. Fisher was a trustee at 10 private colleges or universities and two preparatory schools.
A former Marine, he served as a board member of the Marine Corps University, Marine Military Academy, Millikin University and Florida Institute of Technology.
Fisher was born in Decatur, Illinois, on June 2, 1931. He died Sept. 7, 2022 at his home in Vero Beach, Florida. He is survived by four children — Kerry, Kathy, Kurt and John — as well as 11 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
A private family memorial will be held at a later time. No public services are planned at this time.
We ask you all to keep the Fisher family, as well as the students and colleagues that Dr. Fisher touched during his illustrious career, in your thoughts.