Dr. Jack C. Fisher

[ Age 75 ] Geographer and city-planning expert cultivated international contacts and brought them to Johns Hopkins.

"Jack was an absolutely fascinating fellow and full of energy and dynamism," said Dr. M. Gordon Wolman.

November 20, 2007|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,Sun Reporter

Dr. Jack C. Fisher, former director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Metropolitan Planning and Research, died of undetermined causes Nov. 13 at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The Fells Point resident was 75.

Born and raised in Cortland, N.Y., Dr. Fisher's undergraduate studies at Syracuse University were interrupted while he served with the Army in Germany for several years.

He later returned to Syracuse, where he earned bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in geography, finishing in 1961.

He began his career as an assistant professor of city and regional planning at Cornell University, where he later was director of regional studies.

FOR THE RECORD - An obituary that appeared yesterday for Dr. Jack C. Fisher incorrectly stated his wife's maiden name. She was the former Sally Key Retzer. The Sun regrets the error.

Dr. Fisher was also associated with Resources for the Future in Washington. From 1965 to 1972, he was director of the Wayne State International Urban Studies Program in Detroit.

An old friend, Steven Muller, the president of Hopkins, was responsible for bringing Dr. Fisher to the Homewood campus in 1972 to head the Center for Metropolitan Planning and Research.

The center, previously known as the Center for Urban Studies, later was called the Metro Center for Urban Studies.

He established the International Urban Fellowship Program, funded in part by the Ford Foundation, in which European urban specialists in cooperation with the Hopkins faculty conducted research on urban problems.

"He was an influential pioneer in the field of international city and urban planning, and worked closely with experts in numerous related fields in Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, both during and after the communist era," said his former wife, Katherine A. Fisher of St. Joseph, Mich.

Dr. Fisher, whose work often took him to Europe, was fluent in Serbo-Croatian, Russian and Polish.

The urban research centers he established in Eastern Europe, most notably in Yugoslavia, were instrumental in fostering international exchanges between experts and graduate students.

"It wasn't uncommon for him to travel seven months a year for Hopkins," said his wife of 25 years, the former Sally Key.

"Jack was an absolutely fascinating fellow and full of energy and dynamism. After coming to us, he put together so many fascinating programs," said Dr. M. Gordon "Reds" Wolman, a longtime professor of geography at Hopkins and an acknowledged water resources expert.

"He brought junior fellows to Hopkins for one or two years, and senior fellows who were lecturers. He'd go back and forth to Eastern Europe, where he had a whole catalog of contacts who were significant planners, geographers and economists that he brought to Hopkins year after year," Dr. Wolman said.

"They were a very interesting galaxy of folks that Jack managed to attract one way or the other," he said. "He also liked mixing with the political world and advised James Rouse, and had been very close to William Donald Schaefer and Wally Orlinsky."

Dr. Fisher, who stepped down as director of the center in 1989, was also professor of geography and environmental engineering at the G.W.C. Whiting School of Engineering at Hopkins. He was semiretired at his death.

"He was a very brilliant guy with a delightful personality that could drive you crazy," Dr. Wolman said, laughing. "I liked the guy even though we could both drive each other up the wall."

Dr. Fisher held a number of international appointments, including service as an adviser to the Slovenian Ministry of Science and Technology in Ljubliana from 1991 to 1994. From 1969 to 1972, he was director-administrator of the Belgrade Transportation and Land Use Study in Yugoslavia.

His research interests included city and regional planning, and the political and historical geography of Eastern and Western Europe. He also wrote widely on these subjects.

Dr. Fisher enjoyed traveling, especially to Yugoslavia.

He attended St. David's Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer.

Plans for a memorial service to be held at the Johns Hopkins University were incomplete yesterday.

Also surviving are a son, Joseph C. Fisher of St. Joseph, Mich.; a daughter, Margaret L. Barrett of Downers Grove, Ill.; a sister, Susan Brown of Troy, N.Y.; and four grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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