Quinn Fisher Simpson and Fred Fisher hold up t-shirts that read Fisher School of Accounting

Connecting UF past and present: Fred Fisher and Quinn Fisher Simpson

Pride for the University of Florida runs deep. With it comes a significant connection through multiple generations of families who bleed orange and blue. To highlight this connection, we asked current Business Gator Quinn Fisher Simpson (BSAc ’22) to reminisce with her grandfather, alumnus and namesake of the Fisher School of Accounting Fred Fisher (BSAc ’59) about life at UF, lessons learned in college, advice for the future and more.  

Young Quinn and Fred Fisher roast marshmallows over a fire

Quinn and Fred circa 2005.

Quinn Simpson: Why did you choose UF as the place to pursue your degree? 

Fred Fisher: After being discharged from the active military duty in January 1956, I committed to becoming a Certified Public Accountant and enrolled at the University of Tampa. After establishing myself as a Florida resident, I transferred to the University of Florida in a much larger and diverse accounting faculty. I didn’t know anyone in Florida or at the university—the University of Florida was just a lucky guess, and it was handy as it was an hour and a half up the road.

QS: What was your first impression of UF the first time you came to campus?

FF: It was a large and beautiful campus welcoming students and faculty. There was a lot of excitement and difficulty in securing open classes to fit a day-and-time schedule that I needed to be able to continue working to support my family. There were dozens of booths located in the university’s gymnasium—I still remember the crowds of students.

QS: With everything being online now, we no longer have to wait in line to sign up for classes. We have every class ready to add to our schedule one click away, and if there are no more seats, all we have to do is keep checking on ONE.UF every day until someone drops/switches out of the class. What’s your favorite memory from your time at UF?

FF: Graduation, of course, in that same gymnasium. I felt such relief and feeling of accomplishment to have achieved my first goal of graduating. But also, living in Florida Veterans (FLAVET) Village Three and its renovated Army Barracks with a wife and two children was certainly memorable. The rent and electric combined was about $23 a month. I purchased an old rusty bike for $3 and spray-painted it with Rustoleum blue paint, and it provided transportation to and from Matherly Hall, including up and down old “Engineers Hill” all the time I was there.

QS: Isn’t it amazing that with all the time that has passed we still have Matherly Hall in common, which is 500 feet away from where I live right now? What was the hardest class you took while working on your accounting degree?  

FF: Business Law One was my lone “C” grade in college, and it convinced me not to go to law school—even though I received an “A” in Business Law Two. In retrospect, I believe most difficult classes always added disproportionally more to my bank of knowledge.

Quinn Simpson, Fred Fisher and Paige Fisher Simpson

Three generations of Fishers: Quinn Fisher Simpson, Fred Fisher, and Quinn’s mom and Fred’s daughter Paige Fisher Simpson.

QS: Then I must be gaining lots of knowledge! What was your favorite place to study on campus?  

FF: Without question, one of those nooks with a comfortable chair facing the wall in the library. Most times, a little desk in our unit 204A late into the night. With a family and three part-time jobs, time was at a premium during my three years in college.

QS: Outside of school, what was your favorite thing to do? 

FF: There was a gap of time between summer and fall classes, and my in-laws lived in Naples (population at the time was only 2,500 people.) Caring grandparents and miles of beautiful sand beach provided a lot of time to relax and catch up on rest.

QS: I wish there were beaches closer to Gainesville.

FF: Well, the drive to Naples was a good ride back then. Keep in mind, Interstate 75 wasn’t even there during my time at UF.

QS: What is something I should make sure to do before I graduate from UF? 

FF: Search out good students that are interesting, enjoy learning and exhibit leadership skills with whom you can hopefully develop a friendship that lasts well beyond graduation.

QS: I have been so fortunate to have found some great friends and mentors during my time here. I was also just accepted into the Heavener Leadership Challenge Sigma Class, so I’m on my way! How have you seen Gainesville grow since you were a student?  

FF: Gainesville grows as the university prospers. The student body has grown from 15,000 to over 50,000 and the university is ranked in the top 10 of all public universities. When J. Wayne Reitz, my president, recruited me as a foundation trustee in the mid-1970s, annual fundraising was about $2 million. From 1986 to 1991 as Chairman of the first Capital Campaign for a public university in Florida, we raised $396 million. Currently, the university is nearing completion of a $3 billion campaign. We created an Alumni Association (I am Life Member #19), which is now one of the largest. The Fisher School of Accounting was created in that first campaign and is always ranked in the top five for students passing the CPA exam at their first try. The profession has grown immensely. The proctor overseeing my May 1959 exam was Harry Turnburke with Florida Certificate number one. I especially admire the mission of the Bernie and Chris Machen Florida Opportunity Scholarship Program that has enriched the diversity of UF.

Steve Spurrier, Quinn Fisher Simpson and Fred Fisher pose for a photo in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

Quinn and Fred with Steve Spurrier at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

QS: I am so fortunate to be a beneficiary of all this growth and your thoughtful involvement, Paw Paw. What advice do you have for UF students like me?  

FF: After graduation, continue to work at my previous recommendation responding to your seventh question. Friendships have had an important position in the personal and professional successes of many individuals—including mine! Also, stay aware of current affairs not only in your profession, but also in our country and world events. Embrace a larger world than just your profession.

QS: What has it meant to you to see another generation of Fishers at UF? 

FF: I feel blessed that my granddaughter is at the University of Florida. The University of Florida has been a constant in my life from my involvement in the Foundation and the Fisher School to Bull Gators and football. That you, Quinn, are carrying on that tradition is quite an honor and it’s becoming a treasured bond and bridge from my generation to yours. You are helping me understand and witness the incredible changes in the way classes are taught, the expansion of collaboration and communication with individuals from other countries and the sheer growth of the opportunity in the field of business and accounting.

QS: It’s been so fun being able to experience campus and the football games with you. It has made my experience so special. You have inspired not only me, but so many people I know and they’ve always talked about how much they appreciate your kindness and philanthropy to our University. They love you—but I love you more, Paw Paw!