Last year, the Athletic Department at the College switched hands. When Head Athletic Director Lisa Melendy departed for a year-long sabbatical, she left the department in the reliable, knowledgeable hands of one of the College’s own. Bud Fisher has been a stalwart member of Williams Athletics for the past 40 years. Fisher retired from this position at the end of last year, capping off a resoundingly successful career with a sixth-place finish at the NCAA Regional Championships.
However, he returned to the College this past fall for one final year, acting in Melendy’s place as the Interim Athletic Director (AD). However, with this year finally drawing to a close, Fisher’s time at the College is almost up. He will fully retire this spring, passing the Athletic Department back to Melendy before he departs from Williamstown for good.
Fisher began his coaching career in familiar New England territory. A native of Rumford, Maine, he began his foray into both teaching and coaching in the Rumford public school system as a high school ski coach and junior high mathematics and science teacher. While teaching and coaching in Maine, Fisher received a call from the then-Athletic Director at the College, Bob Peck. Fisher was invited to Williamstown for an interview, and the rest is history.
Fisher began his job as the Head Coach of the Nordic ski team in 1974. Over the course of his career, Fisher coached nine of his skiers to All-American status. He began coaching during a time when skiers were starting to specialize from four events and when ski jumping became obsolete at the Div. III level altogether. During the 1970s, women joined the College’s campus as well as its ski teams, an integration in which Fisher played a major role.
When asked about his experience as a head coach, Fisher commented, “In coaching, you are always updating your knowledge of training, technique, waxing and, most importantly, dealing with students. Every year is different and every team is different and the sport is constantly evolving.” The Ephs have consistently placed in the top five in carnivals on the East Coast circuit and in the top 10 at NCAA Championships. Fisher’s last season included a spring break trip to Norway, a favorite memory of the coach’s: “The fellowship, weather and skiing were superb,” he says.
From Head Coach of Nordic skiing to Interim AD, the transition for Fisher was a smooth one, despite not being able to get out on the trails with the Nordic team as much as he had hoped. In an administrative position instead of a coaching position, Fisher was able to rely on his experience as a coach and as an AD in previous years. “The most important aspects of the job are keeping the programming for students running well and being available as a resource to coaches,” Fisher said. “All of our coaches have challenges and the AD can sometimes be a sounding board that is helpful. The AD also must be the constant voice for the context that athletics live in at Williams,” as well as “being part of the greater educational mission of the college.” “Bud was a great coach that was full of wisdom and had great character,” said one of Fisher’s athletes, Will Wicherski ’15. “I learned a lot from Bud about becoming both a better skier and a better human being. Many Bud-isms will stick in my mind for as long as my mind works, including: ‘Never resist the generous impulse,’ ‘You should marry someone who complements you, not replicates you,’ ‘Often your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness,’ and ‘At 5k I am going to release the wolves, and you are going to have to go as fast as you can just to stay alive.’ He has been a great mentor for me throughout my college career and I will always think well of him.”
Spending one last year at the College as an AD has been a rewarding close to a successful Williams career for Fisher. When asked if he enjoyed this final chapter, Fisher commented, “Yes. Being a support for students and colleagues is always rewarding.” This summer, Fisher will leave Williamstown for good, starting a new chapter in a coastal town in Maine with his family. His legacy as a coach and member of the Williams Athletic Department will leave a mark on the College for years to come.