Every Fisher student is familiar with the routine. One day is spent wandering the halls of Schoenbaum from class to class, while the next is filled with hours upon hours of preparing for the next exam. It’s hard to imagine Fisher in any other way. The college is synonymous with its sprawling campus and its variety of programs. The thought of Fisher without a Schoenbaum or Gerlach Hall is almost heretical. However, there was a time when the Max M. Fisher College of Business wasn’t much more than a single building along the oval. In fact, it wasn’t named Fisher or even the College of Business.
In the 100 years since its inception, Fisher has transformed itself from just a college within The Ohio State University to one of the most renowned academic programs in the country. While the college itself has changed, the core principle of a commitment to its students has remained firm.
The Max M. Fisher College of Business has always been an ever-changing entity at Ohio State. Beginning as the College of Commerce and Journalism in 1916, the college resided in Page Hall until 1923. It was then moved across the street to Hagerty Hall where the program remained for the next 75 years. In this same year under the guidance of its first dean, James E. Hagerty, the college established itself as a four-year program. The college slowly grew with each successive year beginning with a graduating class of 11 students in 1917. Three name changes and more than half a century later, the college officially became known as the College of Business. With the foundations of today’s College of Business having been established, the program would only continue to grow throughout the ‘90s and early 2000s.
In 1993, one of the school’s most prolific graduates, Max M. Fisher, donated $20 million dollars towards the construction of a new campus. This new location would not simply be a new building, but rather an entire complex that would occupy a significant portion of North Campus. That same year the college was renamed as the Max M. Fisher College of Business and would officially open its doors in 1997 to welcome the new millennium.
When it comes to discussing Fisher’s transition from a business school to a business complex, there are few better people to talk to than Jim Miller. Miller has lived and breathed Ohio State for as long as he can remember. Since he graduated from Ohio State in 1984, Miller has spent the entirety of his professional career working with the university. In 2011, he established the Major Lawrence Miller Military Fund, a fund in remembrance of his father that focuses on assisting Ohio State-bound veterans by issuing scholarships and providing housing options. Miller is currently the Associate to the Dean for Advancement of the Fisher College of Business and has been with the college through all of its significant changes in the past 20 years.
Not only has the location of the Fisher College of Business changed, but its sources of income and students have evolved as well. Before 1993, the majority of funds that came into the college were what was to be expected for any major state school: a steady flow of public funds allocated from the university. However, the past two decades have seen a significant emergence of private donations. Miller has noticed this as well since he first started working with the college in the early ‘90s.
“I think of the biggest changes from when I started working here is the significant amount of private dollar investment put towards the school,” Miller says. He continued, “You’ve seen over half the cost of this facility was funded by private dollars. The number of scholarships has also grown dramatically as a result of this.”
The impact from this new influx of money has not only modernized the school’s infrastructure but also the student’s experience as well. One view held by many donors is a focus on the students, not just the physical buildings and facilities.
When asked about the significance of these new facilities and programs, Miller added, “The program dollars available to students to travel abroad has increased. When Max Fisher gave his gift he said, ‘The buildings are just enabling devices.’ I think he is right in that this complex has motivated a lot of people to feel better about the college that they go to.”
The new facilities are only a part of the equation. The principles that Fisher was founded on have maintained and are most evident when looking at how the student body has continued to learn and grow throughout the past century. Fisher students are continually increasing the scope of their goals and expanding on their ambitions.
When asked about the evolution of the student body Miller remarked, “I think the other thing that has changed significantly is the aspirations of our students. Fisher students are getting jobs on Wall Street, pursuing positions with top advertising agencies and starting their own businesses.”
“The Centers, whether it be the Real Estate Center or the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, provide one-on-one networking opportunities that allow people with an entrepreneurial spirit or who are interested in the Real Estate market to really flourish,” Miller adds. “These newer aspects of Fisher have really ballooned the past 20 years. These things open up so many doors and provide Fisher students with more opportunities to build their resumes than previous students. It’s speaks for something beyond the curriculum that helps people stand out.”
From its humble origins, Fisher has grown and innovated while still staying true to what it’s been about for the past 100 years: the students. It’s not just about state-of-the-art facilities; It’s about enhancing the student experience and crafting a well-rounded individual who is ready for the tasks demanded by the business world. The past 100 years have been filled with hundreds of changes, innovations and individuals that have elevated Fisher to be one of the most recognized business schools in the country. As new challenges and technologies appear, The Max M. Fisher College of Business shows no signs of slowing down.