After 20 years, Belmont will begin looking for a new leader, as university President Dr. Bob Fisher announced his retirement Tuesday morning.
“What has been accomplished by our leadership team, our staff, our faculty, and especially our students, has exceeded anything we could have imagined. Judy and I feel so fortunate to have been involved,” said Fisher of his time at Belmont in an email sent out to students and faculty.
In that email, Fisher reflected on his time at the university.
Since he became president in 2000, Fisher has left a large impression on Belmont, from its offerings to its buildings to its national reputation. The school’s enrollment has grown by over 5,000 students, making it the country’s largest ecumenical Christian university.
Under Fisher, more than $1 billion has been invested in campus expansion and construction. In addition to overseeing the construction of many of Belmont’s landmark facilities, Fisher added 11 residence halls, providing residential space for 3,500 students.
Belmont also expanded its academic offerings to over 100 areas of study and awarded more than 28,000 undergraduate and graduate degrees.
The school merged with O’More College of Design and Watkins College of Art, and launched three new graduate schools with the College of Pharmacy, College of Law and — most recently — the College of Medicine.
Student enrollment nearly tripled in the past 20 years. The university also employs almost twice as many people as when Fisher started in 2000.
The school has 59 conference championships in the NCAA era, including winning conference trophies in 17 out of the past 19 seasons.
Fisher also committed himself to fostering student experience and growth by hosting two presidential debates, Christmas at Belmont and opening two museums on campus.
But despite his many accomplishments, many students consider Fisher a down-to-earth president.
Belmont senior and tour guide Aleya Prasad said she often sees Fisher on her campus tours, stopping to chat with prospective Bruins.
“I think I’ve seen Dr. Fisher more in the past week than a lot of my friends at other schools have seen their university presidents in the last four years,” said Prasad.
Sophomore Shawn Trzaska echoed that sentiment, saying Fisher’s presence on campus was always pleasant.
“When you see him on campus, he’s mad friendly; he’s just super smiley,” said Trzaska. “And that brightens up your day.”
Fisher’s long term as university president is thanks to the Belmont Board of Trustees’ support, Fisher said.
“Belmont is blessed with the absolute best Board of Trustees that any university could ever hope for. When faced with difficult decisions our Board has always come together around answering the ultimate guiding question: What is best for Belmont and our students?”
The Board of Trustees will begin immediately the search for the next university president — but not before chairman Mary Dickens expressed his gratitude for all the work Fisher has done for the university.
“There is no question that Bob Fisher will leave big shoes to fill. He has consistently outperformed all expectations, and his tireless commitment to Belmont University is simply unmatched,” said Dickens.
“I speak for the entire board in thanking him for a job exceptionally well done. He leaves Belmont far better than he found it, and this University’s next president will inherit an institution poised for a dynamic future.”
“Belmont University has been blessed beyond measure with great leaders in its past, but Bob Fisher has taken this institution to a level no one could have previously imagined,” said Vice President and Chief of Staff Dr. Susan West, speaking on behalf of the Senior Leadership team.
In the seven months before his retirement, Fisher will continue to oversee the newly announced College of Medicine, as well as several construction projects.
After the end of the 2020-2021 school year, Fisher plans to spend a year-long sabbatical with his family on their Arkansas farm — and as the search for the next president begins, students are left wondering who will take on Fisher’s role.
“Who’s next, who’s gonna take his spot,” said Trzaska. “Who is going to be Belmont?”
This article written by Vivi Smilgius, Kendall Crawford, Sarah Maninger, and Justin Wagner. Contributory reporting by Anna D’Amico and Allison Fedorchek.