Executive in Residence
Department of Commerce and Business
by Hunter Thompson ’12
Richard Fisher, Rhodes College’s first Executive in Residence, walks up to his office for our meeting and greets me with his characteristic mixture of affability and concision. “It’s good to meet you,” he says, glancing briefly back over his shoulder. “Give me a second to finish talking to Robert.” I’m pleasantly surprised, although also a bit confused, to see the familiar face of Robert McMillan (’11), a friendly guy I knew had graduated. Why, I wonder, would Rob be back on campus?
Fisher, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and personal financial advisor, explains later. In addition to his work with students in the classroom and his role as the intern supervisor for the Department of Commerce and Business, he also acts as “A face-time mentor, a personal resource for Commerce and Business students to try to help them delineate what they want in terms of a career.” Helping alums like Robert navigate the often intimidating professional world after graduation is just one of the many services Fisher provides to the Rhodes community.
A Memphis native with years of accumulated business knowledge and a number of published articles and case studies, Fisher sees the Executive in Residence position as an opportunity “to bring the benefits of corporate level experience to the students in order to give them an edge in a professional environment, which, though no fault of their own, has been substantially turned upside down by the financial crisis of 2008.” In an increasingly fraught and competitive fiscal environment, the relevance of Fisher’s practical expertise grows every day.
Fisher holds both bachelor and master’s degrees in accounting from the University of Virginia. In addition to being a CPA, he holds five other professional financial certifications, including several from professional planning organizations. He has been advising high-net worth individuals regarding their financial affairs for over 30 years and has also served as a global portfolio manager for several decades. He currently teaches two classes at Rhodes. Professional Development is a course designed explicitly for Commerce and Business majors to increase students’ competitiveness as they seek to secure a job after graduation. The course focuses on “communication, interview skills, business writing, and ethicsthe things that make you more prepared to go to work and thrive.” The second class is called Personal Financial Management and teaches “liberal arts students about fiscal discipline; everything from how to buy a car to investments, stocks and bonds.” It is the financial skill set, as Fisher notes, “that your parents would want you to have.”
As our conversation eventually strays away from business toward one of Fisher’s many outside interests—music—we discuss the Beach Boys and the relative advantages of Stratocasters and Telecasters. Fisher, who spends his free time teaching guitar to patients at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, offers a last piece of financial advice.
“You check out this guitar and you’ll save yourself $2,000,” he says, comparing a cheaper model to a more popular, expensive brand. The next day he brings the guitar to campus and loans it to me so that I can test it out; as I sit down back in my room and start picking out “God Only Knows,” I make a mental note to sign up for his class next spring.