York College alumna, Dorothy Fischer '79 gives back to the institution that helped her succeed as a first-generation student.
Dorothy “Dotti” (Cassell) Fischer came to York College in 1976 as a nontraditional student intent on studying medical records administration and getting a job. “First and foremost, I was looking for an opportunity to support myself,” she said.
Her academic interest changed, however, after a world cultures course taught by Phil Avillo. It was a tough course with lots of reading, according to Fischer. Avillo had students read the work of philosophers of the times, “studying their thoughts on why things happen the way they do,” she said. With Fischer doing well in the course, Avillo pushed her to “take advantage of the entire liberal arts curriculum” and change her major. “That’s all it took,” she said. “A faculty member who took the extra time moved me in the right direction.”
Fischer went on to study accounting, and graduated summa cum laude from York College in 1979. Throughout the next decade, she worked as a cost accountant for several companies as her husband John’s career took the couple from New York to Pennsylvania to Florida. In 1989, they settled in Florida and Dotti took on her next career: stay-at-home mom to Kristin and Patrick. She also began a lengthy tenure as a volunteer, serving in leadership roles for the PTA and later as a member of the board for her children’s schools.
Her service was noticed by York College, which was seeking to expand its board of trustee membership to include more people living outside of the York area and more women. “A staff member visited and noted that I was on the board of two independent private schools,” Fischer said. “She thought I would be a good fit to be on York College’s board, so I agreed to serve.”
Eight years later, Fischer serves as the chair of the Academic Affairs Committee and as a member of the Advancement Committee. There have been many changes at York College during her tenure, and she is proud of the changing role the board has assumed during that time. “I have had the opportunity to watch the Board of Trustees go from tactical to strategic thinking,” she said, “and I am really proud of how it is more supportive, more vocal, more informed, and more engaged.”
The highlight of her time as a trustee, thus far, has been choosing a new president, “hiring the person who would try to take YCP to a different level, who had the courage to reorganize the entire school in order to improve academics, yet remain committed to its goal-oriented mission.” Fischer also noted going through a strategic planning process that was truly collaborative. “Not only does the board now have more of a voice, so do all other constituents. That was apparent throughout the creation of the strategic plan.”
Fischer continues to serve on the board for several other organizations, and her husband, John, is Chairman, President and CEO of Olin Corporation, a chemical company located in Clayton, Missouri. The couple, who reside in Florida, recently made a $500,000 gift to support the York College Fund, scholarships, and endowment. My husband and I believe very strongly in what York College does,” she said. “York occupies an important niche in higher education, serving those students like me – many who are first-generation -- looking for jobs. Plus, the College has consistently had a strong financial backing. John and I knew our gifts went where they were supposed to go. That’s very important to us.”
York College delivered on its promise to Dotti Fischer – she found the job and ultimately the career that allowed her to make her way in the world. Now, she and her husband are giving back to “the institution that has helped fulfill Dotti as an individual.”