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Roanoke College’s Oldest Alumnus, Dr. Charles “Hap” Fisher, Passes Away


Dr. Charles “Hap” Fisher

Roanoke College lost its oldest alumnus, Dr. Charles “Hap” Fisher, who was 104 years old when he died at his home in Roanoke. Fisher graduated from Roanoke in 1928 with a B.S. in chemistry and earned his M.S. and Ph.D. at the University of Illinois.

Fisher taught at Harvard for three years and then began a long and successful industrial career. As a research chemist for the federal government, he directed work that led to the development of commercial products including wrinkle-resistant and flame-resistant cotton fabrics. When he retired from that post, he returned to Salem and his alma mater in 1972, where he joined the chemistry department as a research professor. There, he continued laboratory research and writing scientific papers for publication.

Fisher officially retired from the Roanoke College research position in November 2006 – on the occasion of his 100th birthday party, held at the College’s Colket Center. He was the author of more than 200 publications and the holder of 72 patents in the fields of organic and polymer chemistry.

Fisher’s 100th birthday party was covered by local and national media. His last day of work before he officially retired was noted by legendary radio newsman Paul Harvey in his broadcast on November 30, 2006.

Fisher was among a group of centenarians featured in a documentary called “Witness to a Century.” The hour-long piece was produced by WCVE PBS in Richmond, the Virginia Historical Society, and others. In the documentary, Fisher and other Virginia residents 100 years old or older recall their experiences with the Roaring ’20s, Prohibition, the Great Depression, the world wars, growing technology, and other significant occurrences in U.S. and world history.

Fisher’s list of honors was quite long. At Roanoke College, he received an honorary doctor of science in 1963 and the Roanoke College Medal in 1996. He was a foundation member of the Nu of Virginia chapter of Phi Beta Kappa at Roanoke College. In 1990, the Charles H. Fisher Lecture Series was established in his honor, bringing chemistry speakers to the College annually. In 2002, the organic chemistry laboratory at Roanoke was named in his honor.

Fisher is survived by a large family, including his wife Betty Florence Snyder Fisher ’46, his sister, Helen Miller ’41 and his brother, Dr. Richard Fisher, a surgeon who was recognized by Roanoke College in 2006 with the Charles R. Brown Award for his outstanding contributions to the quality of life in Salem.

The full obituary is available at:



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