The estate of a prominent Towson University alumnus has donated a record $10.2 million to the school's college of science and mathematics to create an endowed chair and two scholarships to help attract high-quality faculty and students.
"This is a transformational gift," said university President Robert L. Caret at a news conference yesterday attended by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and other state officials.
The gift was made on behalf of Jess Fisher, the founder of the Washington-based real estate company Jess Fisher & Co., who died in June 2003. He was born in Baltimore and attended Towson in the 1930s, when it was known as Maryland State Normal School. He played basketball and football, and would have graduated with the Class of 1934.
But he never graduated from the school because he ran out of money, according to John Schofield, who was Fisher's accountant for many years.
Fisher moved to Washington in 1936, where he worked as a beer salesman until founding his company in the 1960s. The firm specialized in developing apartment and commercial buildings in the Washington area.
Fisher also served on the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington and was chairman of the advisers' board of Georgetown Visitation School and Convent. He also was on the board of advisers of the National Bank in Washington and was active in several Jewish charities.
Fisher had discussed donating to Towson before his death but had not settled on an amount.
Schofield, who oversees Fisher's charitable foundation, began negotiations with Towson officials over the past year. "They kept coming to us, and we kept saying, 'There's more, there's more" money available, Schofield said.
Even though Fisher never completed his college education, he had an interest in science and technology. "He always wanted to know what was new," Schofield said.
The gift dwarfs previous donations to Towson. The school received a $1 million gift nearly a decade ago; the next-largest donation was about $700,000, according to school officials.
The money will be used to create endowed professorship, which will be named for Fisher and his late wife, Mildred; and two scholarships named for the couple's late children, Robert M. Fisher and Cecilia Fisher Rudman. The math and science college will be renamed the Jess and Mildred Fisher College of Science and Mathematics.