Hilda Fisher, retired Goucher chemistry lab director, dies

Hilda Fisher ran Goucher College's chemistry laboratory from 1961 until her retirement in 1989.

Hilda C. Fisher, a longtime Goucher College chemistry lab supervisor and instructor, died of Parkinson’s disease complications Dec. 27 at the Edenwald Retirement Community. The former Owings Mills resident was 92.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Brooks Lane in Reservoir Hill, she was the daughter of Samson Cohen, a women’s coat manufacturer, and and his wife, Bessie. She attended Robert E. Lee School No. 49 and was a Western High School graduate. In 1947 she earned a chemistry degree at Goucher College, to which she later returned as an instructor in its chemistry lab. She was 19 years old when she graduated.


In an interview with a Goucher publication, Ms. Fisher said that during World War II, she felt that people believed women could do anything. She studied the sciences and built a strong relationship with her professors.

She recalled helping to transfer pieces of the delicate chemistry lab equipment from the old city campus on Saint Paul Street to Goucher’s new home in Towson.


“We had to be careful holding the scales; they were very delicate,” she said.

She met her future husband, Alvin D. Fisher, at a social club party for returning World War II servicemen.

When her children were all in primary school, the chair of Goucher’s chemistry department offered her a position in the chemistry lab.

“It was a dream job, intellectually stimulating, but flexible enough to allow time for being a mother of four children,” said her daughter, Marilyn Hope Fisher of Baltimore. “My mother used her time well. She would go grocery shopping to an A&P store near the campus and put the perishables in the faculty lounge refrigerator until it was time to go home.”

On another occasion, Ms. Fisher had her long hair cut to shoulder length because she thought it would be easier to manage as a career woman.

“She came home from lunch that Saturday and found the new cut was not practical,” her daughter said. “It swung into her face. She called the salon and went back and had it cut to a short, boyish pixie cut. She wore her hair that way for the rest of her life.”

Ms. Fisher ran the Goucher lab from 1961 until she retired in 1989.

Barton Houseman, a retired Goucher chemistry professor, said, “She was the kind of person who could charm all of the faculty professors into collaborating with each other. She was our lab enabler all those years. She was well organized, and we tended to hand problems over to her, because she was a solver. Things got done well because it was a pleasure to do it Hilda’s way.”


He also said, “Her secret was that she was amicable. There were no rough edges. And she was totally dedicated to Goucher College and its students.”

Frona Brown, a Goucher College faculty member, said, “In addition to running the lab, she also ran the annual chemistry banquet. She was a mentor of all of us. She cared about scholarship and being a good student. She made chemistry fun.”

Ms. Fisher and her husband were involved in the Goucher community. They conducted a midnight tour of Baltimore for the incoming first-year class. They hired a double-decker bus and ended the tour at Fort McHenry, where the students would help to raise the flag at 6 a.m.

She was a member of Phil Beta Kappa, the honors society, and member of the Senate of Phi Beta Kappa’s Goucher chapter, 1961-1989.

In retirement Ms. Fisher was a docent at the Jewish Historical Society and a charter member of the Auburn Society at Towson University. She was a volunteer visitor for Hearthland Hospice and Jewish Family Services and was co-chair of the Grant Committee for the Jewish Women’s Foundation of Baltimore.

Ms. Fisher credited her years in the Girl Scouts as inspiring her to work for others and the good of the community.


In a 1995 Baltimore Sun article, she recalled spending weeks in the summer at Camp Whippoorwill on the Magothy River.

The Morning Sun


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"It was a wonderful time, " said Ms. Fisher. “It was something we did as a group, and it taught us how to organize.

“The things you learn at a tender age make good sense,” she said. “You do it because you think it’s important. It is truly very satisfying to have people recognize that you’ve been doing things for other people. You certainly don’t do them because someone’s going to say thank you.”

She and her husband endowed a scholarship fund at Goucher.

Ms. Fisher enjoyed entertaining her family and friends on Friday nights and was known for a grape-flavored gelatin mold made with kosher wine and walnuts.

Mrs. Fisher was given the 1984 Lioness of Judah Award and was the 1996 outstanding volunteer of the year at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.


In addition to her daughter and husband of 73 years, a retired salesman, survivors include a son, Robert Fisher of Chicago; two other daughters, Lynn Toby Fisher of New York City and Arlene Blaker of Baltimore; seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Plans for a memorial service are incomplete.