Stacks of books fill an office tucked away on the Huntington University campus. As the Rev. Bill Fisher sat there, looking around the room, he pondered the gravity of his decision.
“How am I going to move all of these books?” Fisher asked as he spoke about his choice to leave the university at the end of the spring semester after 18 years as the dean of Christian faith and life.
“The time was right for me.”
Fisher came to Huntington in 1993 from Seattle Pacific University. At the time, he and his wife, Ramona, were quite happy in the Northwest and were not searching for a new job. But a notice about the position inadvertently made its way to his office and eventually his home — where his wife found it.
“She said, ‘Did you look at this?’” he recalled, knowing at the time that he had mistakenly picked up the job posting. “’Well you better,’ (she said to his surprise) ‘because this describes you.’
“It made for my powerful launch into my interest for the position,” Fisher said. “This just went from a casual interest to a God thing like that.”
In his career at Huntington, Fisher has revised chapel programming to respond to the changing needs and interests of the campus community. He grew the number of campus ministries student leaders from one to a peak of 40 students. He developed “Faith-In-Action” teams to engage and to support local churches, established Joyful Noise as an ongoing chapel worship team, helped organize the first ACOC (All Campus Off Campus) retreats and developed the first faculty/staff worship services at the beginning of each semester. In addition to teaching throughout the years, Fisher also led and co-led numerous spring break and J-Term trips across the United States and around the world, including Brazil, China, Northern Ireland, Ukraine, Kenya and Uganda.
“Whether home or abroad or professionally or personally, Huntington University students are impacting their world for Christ,” Fisher said, “and to think that I have made even a minor contribution to that is humbling and honoring.”
Fisher has been recognized on and off campus for his service and leadership in ministry. In 2007, he received the Dana Walling Award for Excellence in Campus Ministry. He has also developed programs for the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU), including the Leadership Development and Spiritual Formation Program which is funded by the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust. Through this grant, Fisher consults with other Christian colleges to improve their student-ministry outreach. He plans to continue this work after he leaves the university in June.
“It would be impossible to list all the ways that he has impacted the lives of our students — from the classes he has taught, to the personal and pre-marital counseling he has provided, to the example he has set through his involvement with area churches,” said HU President G. Blair Dowden. “In so many ways, Bill has modeled a life dedicated to Christ. And he has done an incredible job representing Huntington University locally, nationally and internationally.”
After he has completed his service at HU, Fisher says he will carry on with his work with the Murdock Charitable Trust and continue to pastor at First Baptist Church in Warren, Ind., while he discovers God’s next plan for his life.
A national search is currently under way to find his successor. In the meantime, the Rev. Bob Henry will assume the position of interim campus pastor for the 2011-2012 academic year.
Fisher said he will miss the students most after he leaves, but he hopes that his message — God’s message — will remain written on their hearts long after he is gone.
“The accomplishment that I cherish most is what students hang on to as they come through,” he said. “If it didn’t make a difference on a heart somewhere, it was a waste of time.”