Louisvillian of the Year

July 27, 2012, 12:00 p.m.
The Olmsted

Good afternoon.

It is a special honor for me to again this year have the opportunity to introduce the Louisvillian of the Year recipient.

(As was noted), last year I had the honor of introducing a friend, a mentor, a very special person, Mr. Bernard Trager. As you know, Bernard passed away on February 10, 2012. I, like so many in the community, miss Bernard.

Since I was the 2010 recipient of the Louisvillian of the Year award, I was asked to introduce this year’s recipient, George Fischer.

Life is very interesting because George and Bernard have been long-time friends. George served on Bernard’s bank board. How fitting and wonderful it would have been had Bernard been alive to introduce George today.

George has been described as a business icon and serial entrepreneur. While that is true, today is special to me for just as I could say about Bernard, George is a friend, George has been a mentor, and George is a very special person.

You see, in 1980 I was asked by Governor John Y. Brown to leave a teaching position at Loyola University in New Orleans and accept a position in his gubernatorial administration. One of the first people I met in the administration – I worked for, I worked with – was George Fischer. Even today – 32 years later – he calls me Jimmy.

When asked about what George did in the Brown administration, I would say “everything.”

George being George, had a different way of describing what he did. George said his job was to run the state and Governor Brown’s job was to take care of Phyllis. George thought he had the easier of the two jobs.

George and I have been friends since that time.

One quick “George Fischer” story. My job in the Brown administration was to manage many of our dealings with Wall Street.

George planned a trip for us to New York City. The first day we hit Wall Street, we met with investment bankers – George wanted to learn more about what he called “my world.”

The next day we went to Endicott to visit IBM. George wanted to expose me to “his world” – strategic development, leadership, business management, etc.

It was a very intense two days, meetings from morning to night. As we were headed back to LaGuardia Airport from IBM, George abruptly asked the driver if he would pull over. The driver did; George hopped out of the car, jumped over a fence, and dashed through a parking lot – I wondered what in the world was going on!

A few minutes later here came George with a bag in his arms. He got back in the car, opened the bag and said, “I don’t know about you but I need a couple of beers on the way back to the airport!” Great thing. George is George.

After graduating from the University of Florida, George served in the U.S. Air Force as a jet pilot.

George had a most successful career at IBM. He left IBM to lead MetriData Computing Inc. before serving in the Brown administration.

At about the same time, George started a company, Servend International – pioneering the development and marketing of ice and beverage equipment – the company’s equipment has been used in thousands of restaurants, quick stop marts, and other food service establishments around the world.

George’s commitment to the community is unparalleled.

For example:

  • George partnered with Christy and Owsley Brown to create the Festival of Faiths – an event of significance in our community, bringing people of different faiths/ philosophic ideas together to think and reason.
  • George has served on the Board of Trustees at the University of Louisville, including serving as its chair. He now serves as a member of our Board of Overseers.
  • George has served us as an informal, unofficial advisor, especially with regard to the expansion of our Fine Arts Program and the magnificent Frederick Hart Exhibit that we hosted several years ago.
  • George has received many, many deserving community awards, including being named Entrepreneur of the Year by Inc. Magazine.
  • George has been recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Governor’s Awards for Volunteerism and Service ceremony in Frankfort for his 25 years as a community volunteer.
  • George helped establish the Governor’s Scholars Program – think about that!
  • George has been cited for his efforts in education, health care and community building on many occasions by many groups including at the UofL and the Thomas Merton Foundation.
  • George has been honored as part of the Salute to Catholic School Alumni by the Catholic Education Foundation.
  • He is a member of the Kentuckiana Business Hall of Fame.

I could go on and on with George’s achievements and community activities, but . . . George has stated that he learned his business savvy at IBM and that his secret to success was desire, dedication, skills and a balance so his personal life and business life had similar goals.

George is dedicated to this community in every way. He gives of his time/talent – sees his role as helping people and helping organizations in our community be successful so our community can be successful. George is a role model for me/us.

George is a dedicated family man and has a great family. Everywhere you go in the community you see George and MaryLee. MaryLee and George – what a team! What a couple! You know of their five children and their many accomplishments and achievements. 12 grandchildren – very proud.

A great family, a great Louisvillian – I can think of no one more deserving to be Louisvillian of the Year than Mr. George Fischer.

Office of the President

Grawemeyer Hall

University of Louisville

Louisville, Kentucky 40292


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