With a large segment of the population aging, an eye on that group has become more focused today than in the past. However, the late Dr. George Fisher and his wife, Beatrice, saw the need for understanding and meeting the needs of the aging population years ago through their association with Dr. Ellen Page-Robin, head of Western Michigan University's gerontology program. They were strong proponents of developing more gerontology degree programs at Michigan colleges and universities.
George Fisher earned an MBA in management, an Sp.A. in business education, and a graduate certificate in gerontology, all from WMU. He also earned a Ph.D. in education from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Thereafter, he joined the Kalamazoo County Committee on Aging and became deeply involved with community service organizations which were senior service oriented.
Beatrice Fisher earned a master's degree in sociology, majoring in counseling and personnel, and later received a graduate certificate in gerontology from WMU. She was also a leading volunteer in community service organizations, and in 2000 was honored with one of two Distinguished Alumni Awards from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Beatrice Fisher passed away in December 2005.
The Fishers believed in addressing a need before it became a dilemma, and they were acutely aware of the ever-expanding needs of older adults. In 1998, they established the George and Beatrice Fisher Gerontology Dissertation Prize. According to George Fisher, who passed away in January 2010, it was created to set the stage for WMU to expand its gerontology curriculum to include a master's and, eventually, a doctoral program. The prize fund serves as a fitting memorial to the Fishers.
"Gerontology is not confined to any academic program," said George Fisher. "It cuts across management, music and many other programs offered here at WMU. All could impact what the elderly need and should have."