ABOVE: Carroll Hospital Center's new Charles O. Fisher Medical Building.
Carroll Hospital Center in Westminster dedicated its brand-new Charles O. Fisher Medical Building in honor of its last living founder in a ceremony held November 19, 2009.
Despite his tenure on the hospital’s Board of Directors since its grand opening in 1961, Charles O. Fisher – who also served as MSBA President two decades later, in 1980-81 – recalls being “very surprised and shocked” upon learning in October 2008 that the new building would bear his name. For fellow board members, however, the choice was obvious.
MSBA Past President Charles O. Fisher(left) with son Charles O. Fisher, Jr., Chair, Carroll Hospital Center's Board of Directors.
“The only one of the founders who has been on the Board of Directors for the entire lifetime of the hospital is my father,” says Charles O. Fisher, Jr., Chair of Carroll Hospital Center’s Board of Directors and an attorney himself. In a speech delivered at the dedication, the younger Fisher noted his father’s initial reaction to seeing his name placed upon the building: “He was obviously pleased…then, with characteristic humility, he simply said, ‘This is more than anyone has a right to expect.’”
More than a half-century ago, the elder Fisher, along with a small handful of other civic and business leaders from the Westminster area, initiated the push for what they considered a fundamental necessity for their growing community.
“Any of us who had young children were well aware that we needed a hospital closer than we had,” Fisher recalls. “We’d have to run to Baltimore or Hanover or Gettysburg – and many of us had close calls.”
The idea found “great support” throughout the area; to be sure, the group – which incorporated in 1958 – raised three-quarters of a million dollars in pledges, in addition to securing numerous government grants. Nevertheless, Fisher notes, a cloud of financial insecurity loomed over Carroll Hospital Center when it first opened its doors on October 1, 1961.
“We ended up with the hospital ready to open, and we were broke – we’d spent all our money,” he chuckles. “So six of us – the six original founders – all signed a note for $5,000 and borrowed $30,000 from the bank, and [we] opened the door of the hospital with $30,000 in cash.”
In the ensuing decades, Fisher’s penchant for public service expanded into many forums, including an ongoing directorship of the New Windsor Bank and a trusteeship of the Union Mills Homestead Foundation, as well as regular participation with organizations like the Maryland Historical Society and St. John Catholic Church, not to mention his active involvement with the Bar.
“One of the best decisions I ever made was to join the Maryland State Bar Association,” admits Fisher, who, at 92, continues to practice law, albeit on a limited basis. “Some of my fondest memories of practicing law are the association with other lawyers and working on bar activities, seeing the development of the law.”
But Fisher’s interest in the hospital he helped to create neither deviated nor faltered. “We have a hospital that I think is very progressive,” he beams. “We’ve had excellent leadership, and the strategic plan is always looking ahead. It’s changing all the time.”
The elder Fisher credits his father for instilling the importance of community service at an early age. “My dad was public service-minded, and I just grew up that way,” he explains. “There’s great satisfaction in public service; it’s the day-to-day activities that are the lifeblood of the community. You’re giving something back to the community, and that’s important. The community is no stronger than the people who are willing to devote some time and service to it.”
Fisher, in turn, passed the legacy on to his own children. “We grew up understanding that our father was involved in community activities,” notes the younger Fisher, himself a past member of the MSBA Board of Governors who also chaired the Association’s Budget & Finance Committee for three years. “In fact, I think we grew up understanding that you’re supposed to be involved in community activities – this is what people do.”