Grow Financial Donates to Scholarship Fund Named for Retiring CEO Bob Fisher
By Keith Morelli
TAMPA (January 7, 2020) -- Bob Fisher is among the longest serving members of the Muma College of Business’ Executive Advisory Council, having been a mainstay on the board for the past 14 or 15 years. He’s hoping to continue his work on the board even after he turned in his “executive” status as CEO of Grow Financial Credit Union last month.
His involvement with the business college is something he’s passionate about.
“I started seeing all the exciting things the university was doing,” he said, “and I love being around young people. Being around young people keeps you young too.”
Like his longevity on the EAC, Fisher’s time with the credit union is remarkable, having started with the company 29 years ago when it was called the MacDill Federal Credit Union. It’s that legacy that moved the company to create a scholarship endowment established in his name in the amount of $225,000, which will be used to fund scholarships awarded annually to accounting students. The news that his company had set up the fund was revealed at his recent retirement party, when business college Dean Moez Limayem showed up.
It all came as quite a shock, Fisher said.
“They did a pretty good job of hiding it from me,” he said. “That really thrilled me. I was not expecting that. They did it in recognition of my 30 years at the credit union and my passion for education.”
The Grow Financial leadership team sought to somehow honor Fisher’s legacy in his retirement and knew how much USF and the Muma College of Business meant to him, said Melissa Bryson, associate director of development with the college.
“So they chose to take the current Grow Financial Endowed Scholarship and change the name to the Robert L. Fisher Endowed Scholarship in Accounting,” she said. “Bob is such a wonderful friend to our college and it’s apparent how much his colleagues at Grow Financial admire him as a leader as well.
In addition to renaming the scholarship, Grow Financial added an additional $100,000 to the endowment, making it a total of $225,000.
“We are excited,” she said, “to be able to help honor Bob for all of the amazing things he’s done for our college over the years by awarding this scholarship and changing the lives of our deserving students here at the Muma College of Business.
“This will perpetually produce about $9,000 in scholarship awards each year,” Bryson said.
The credit union’s involvement with USF dates to when Fisher served as chair of the local chamber of commerce and former USF President Judy Genshaft chaired the chamber’s board of directors.
“I was touched by her enthusiasm,” Fisher said. “It was very infectious.” So, he became a member of the EAC and has served ever since.
Offering advice, delivering guest lectures and providing opportunities for students to excel and become a productive part of the business community, he said, is about as rewarding as it gets.
“It’s important for senior business leaders and organizations to pay attention to the younger generation,” Fisher said. “What they’re thinking and seeing will be how they want to do business in the future.
“I enjoy being around the students, to impart some knowledge,” he said. “A lot of young people coming into the business world, they are like deer in the headlights. They’re used to dealing with the theory of business in the classroom, but not business in the real world.”
Fisher is in a perfect position to give advice to business students. He joined the management team in 1990 as CFO and two years later, he was appointed president and CEO. When he started, the credit union employed 143 workers serving 60,000 members. Now, Grow Financial has 570 employees and 205,000 members with $2.7 billion in assets.
Through Fisher’s leadership, Grow Financial has consistently ranked first as a Top Work Place by the Tampa Bay Times and, in 2019, the credit union was named to Fortune’s list of 100 Best Medium-Size Workplaces. To cap off his career, Fisher was named a Tampa Bay Times Top Business Leader for 2019.
Retirement opens up a new episode in the story of Fisher’s life. He’s starting out by taking his family skiing in Colorado and then, it’s a trip to New York City in May.
Fisher has taken an interest in genealogy and has been delving into his family’s past. He discovered he is descended from a prominent Dutch family in Holland in the 1500s. His research uncovered a dated photo of his grandfather’s naturalization papers and his entry ticket to Ellis Island on May 3, 1920.
“We’re going to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty,” he said, “for the 100-year anniversary of my family coming here.”
“I’m into photography, trying to learn video and video editing,” he said. ”Other than that, I’m just going to see friends.”
This September, Fisher attended his 50th high school reunion in Cincinnati and reconnected with some of his old friends.
“For some reason – there were 68 of us – that class produced numerous doctors, lawyers, engineers and CEOs,” he said. “A bunch of us are planning on getting together more often now.”