Gerald H. Fisher, age 91, departed this life on March 2, 2019 in Little Rock, Arkansas. Born September 1, 1927 in Pleasant View, Arkansas to Gip and Ethel Fisher, his early life on a family farm in the Arkansas River valley included plowing behind mules and family trips to harvest fruit in California. The radio was his window to the world, including a great love of The Grand Ole Opry and the St. Louis Cardinals. He later took his first trip overseas, serving as a US Army MP during the Japan occupation.
Growing up in a poor, rural area, Gerald’s great passion became the power of education to build communities and change lives. A first-generation college student, he received degrees in Bachelor of Arts (College - now University - of the Ozarks), Masters of Education (University of Arkansas), and Doctorate of Education (University of Arkansas). His career path was from high school teacher (Ft. Smith, Arkansas) to vocational education and training (Director of the Hot Springs Rehabilitation Center) to Superintendent of the Hot Springs School District (overseeing the integration of the city schools and the proud emergence of a state-champion high school football program) to founding President of Garland County Community College (GCCC, now National Park College). He opened the first GCCC classes in storefronts, borrowed spaces and vacant buildings, and eventually oversaw the construction of the current campus in MidAmerica Park, where the college’s Administration Building/Student Center was named in his honor. He was most proud of the establishment of the college’s nursing program, which began with 25 students and is now considered one of the state’s top nursing schools.
Gerald was appointed by Governors Dale Bumpers and Bill Clinton to committees and task forces to improve Arkansas education, and he was recognized by the American Association of Two Year Colleges for his instrumental role in the establishment of Arkansas’ two-year college system. He was a distinguished lecturer who published articles on education and rehabilitation, as well as a public speaker known for his humor and story-telling.
Gerald met his wife, Melba Ruth Cole, at the College of the Ozarks where they dominated ping-pong competitions, and after marrying in 1950 they began a lifetime of family, careers, travel, and community service. They had four children; Cynthia (Little Rock), Chris (Hot Springs) Sarah (Iowa City, IA), and Greg (Hot Springs).
Fisher was a proud and engaged resident of the Hot Springs community for four decades, serving on several local boards, including: United Way, Boys Club, YMCA, Abilities Unlimited, Chamber of Commerce, Garland County Red Cross, Ouachita Regional Counseling and Mental Health Center, and Arkansas Bank and Trust. A longtime Rotarian, he served as District Governor, was a Paul Harris Fellow, and drove his family cross-country in their station wagon to many Rotary International conventions. Finally, he was a voracious reader and history buff, an amateur musician who sang and played multiple stringed instruments, and an active member of the First United Methodist Church.
Gerald is preceded in death by his wife Melba, parents Ethel Trotter and Gilford (Gip), and brother Gary. He is survived by his four children, Cynthia, Chris, Sarah Gardial (Jeffrey Gleeson), and Greg (Kim), as well as six grandchildren, Meredith Gardial, Cole (Trista) Fisher, Julia Gardial Searcy (Houston), Taylor Fisher, Erica Fisher and Madison Fisher.
Memorials to First United Methodist Church in Hot Springs will create a preservation fund for the art piece closest to Gerald’s heart - the church’s two-story Jesus mosaic designed by Melba. Service arrangements will be announced at a later date.
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