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Fran Fisher is 90 Today. We're the Ones Getting Presence

by on September 23, 2013 6:00 AM

Fran Fisher is 90 today.

Fran Fisher is my hero. It’s a small club: My mom, my late dad, my sister, Red Smith and marathoner-writer Kenny Moore.

Fran Fisher is Penn State. Loyal and true blue, high ideals, not blind to the school’s faults, but not in a blind range about them either.

Fran Fisher is the guy behind the Nittany Lion logo – “the chipmunk” – which molded the branding and image of Penn State.

Fran Fisher is the same man I first met 34 years as a Collegian cub reporter that I see weekly today. If a measure of a man is how he treats others, Fran Fisher stands 10 feet.

Fran Fisher is a regular lunch partner along with our dear friend Lou Prato, and has been for every few weeks for several years. We invite a fourth guest – “Because we’ve already heard all of each other’s lies,” Fran says – and we pick up their tab in exchange for picking their brains and picking on them. Three dozen or so folks have joined us, for an experience that far surpasses any Tuesday with Morrie.

Fran Fisher is half of a cherished tandem with Prato, offering many laughs, wisdom, support, perspective, history, friendship and b.s.

Fran Fisher is in the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame, which validates the entire group in my book.

Fran Fisher is an Honorary Alumni of Penn State. Penn State should be honored to have him.

Fran Fisher is thoughtful. Fran Fisher returns Tupperware not only clean, but with a few pieces of candy.

Fran Fisher was often a guest lecturer in my “Joe Paterno and The Media” class. His was always among the course’s best lessons – a mixture of history, perspective, humor and insight. After speaking, the kids would line up to say “thanks” and get a few more nuggets – especially the coeds. 

Fran Fisher, at age 12, was there in Forbes Fields when Babe Ruth hit his last three home runs (712, 713, 714). And he was there 25 years later, when the Pirates’ Bill Mazeroski hit his dramatic home run.

Fran Fisher is gracious, good manners, class and style.

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Fran Fisher is an unflagging fan of Joe Paterno and Bill O’Brien both, knowing that the two are not mutually exclusive. Fran Fisher is an even bigger fan of Penn State football.

Fran Fisher was the Voice of Penn State football, for two stints, his second with George Paterno in a pairing that made every game enjoyable and memorable. (“If you listened in the stadium,” Fran Fisher says, “it was like getting two games for the price of one: The game you saw and the game I broadcast.”)

Fran Fisher is a man who remembers all the good that Joe Paterno did.

Fran Fisher is the father of Jeff and Jerry, who have followed in their dad’s footsteps in their love of PSU sports and their passion for radio and marketing.

Fran Fisher is the guy sitting in the same booth in Damon’s every Thursday night during football season, watching O’Brien’s radio show live. Fran Fisher is buying the first round, and on the best nights the quartet in the booth includes three others -- like Nate Bauer and me – who are thankful for the best seat in the house … because it’s next to Fran.

Fran Fisher is the one person who actually doesn’t say anything at all when he can’t say anything nice.

Fran Fisher is the comforting voice of a friend I focused on during the radio broadcast of the 1995 Penn State-Purdue game, as I drove the two hours from State College to my hometown the day my dad passed away.

Fran Fisher is the one who gets it, that Penn State and Penn State sports are about the students. From his interviews on “TV Quarterbacks” to his interactions with student athletes and college journalists of today, the kids have been paramount. 

Fran Fisher is going to be embarrassed by any fuss over his birthday today.

Fran Fisher is a former saxophone player in the Blue Band, leaving school mid-semester in 1942 to join the Navy.

Fran Fisher is a radio man, and was – and still is – a fixture in Greensburg and Lewistown, where he honed his skills and learned the industry from the ground up, from selling ads to calling high school games, and understands what community journalism was all about.

Fran Fisher is what a living legend is all about.

Fran Fisher was all things Penn State as a broadcaster. TV Quarterbacks, wrestling, soccer, lacrosse and basketball. Radio call-in shows. WPSX-TV.

Fran Fisher was all things Penn State athletics. Executive director of the Nittany Lion Club, marketer, branding savant, highlight shows.

Fran Fisher’s is the screaming voice you heard when Herb Menhardt kicked the winning field goal at North Carolina State in 1979 (“…like he swallowed his mic,” my friend Will Pakutka wrote in the Collegian) and when Todd Blackledge connected with Gregg Garrity in the 1983 Sugar Bowl.

Fran Fisher is a walking Penn State history course, having lived it and outlived it, as a well-enunciated Forest Gump.

Fran Fisher loves chili and baked potatoes. Fran Fisher hates it when Lou Prato tries to bum his salad.

Fran Fisher is sometimes still there on the sidelines (albeit sitting), 48 years after he first did so in Paterno’s early days, watching a midweek Penn State football practice, at the invitation of O’Brien, who has smartly and warmly embraced Fran Fisher.

Fran Fisher is the guy the CDT tried to kill off last April, when it called him “the late Fran Fisher” in a story about Bill Koll. Fran Fisher’s response, via email, to the paper: “Subject: I’m alive and almost well. Just a quick note to let you know your reference to the ‘late Fran Fisher’ in your Hall of Fame wrestling piece is a bit premature. Close but no cigar!”

Fran Fisher is the kind of man who would always, always say, “Sure, I’ll do the banquet. No problem ... If I can bring my wife.”

Fran Fisher is lucky enough to know that the best thing in his life was the love of his life for over 50 years (and counting), his late wife Charlotte.

Fran Fisher is my friend. When you meet him, Fran Fisher will be yours, too.

Fran Fisher is 32,872 days old today. Here’s to ten thousand more.

 



Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for StateCollege.com since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PSUPoorman. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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