MONTEREY, Calif. - The provost of the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, Dr. Donald Fischer, literally rocked his way through his second retirement Dec. 20, playing his electric guitar in a band following the official ceremony attended by more than 250 faculty, staff, and distinguished guests.
“He was the right man for the right time and he is leaving with every student having a MacPro (notebook) and iPad,” said Dr. Richard Brecht, Executive Director of the Center for Advanced Study of Language at the University of Maryland, who has worked with Fischer since he became provost in 2005.
Fischer is credited for placing a heavy emphasis on technology in the classrooms and in the hands of students and faculty. More than 700 interactive whiteboards are installed in classrooms, while students are currently exchanging their tablet PCs and iPods for MacPro notebooks and iPads.
Fischer also served as DLIFLC commandant from 1989 to 1993. On the first day of his command he was surprised to find out that a very significant visitor would be attending a course at the Institute.
“You can imagine how I felt about having a four star general on the installation taking Spanish for a month!” explained Fischer, speaking of the Army Training and Doctrine Command’s commanding officer, Gen. Max Thurman, who wanted to learn the language prior to taking his next assignment at Southern Command and the conducting of Operation Just Cause in Panama.
As one of TRADOC's leading schools in technology, Fischer accelerated the issuing of Macintosh computers to faculty who developed some of the Institute’s first computerized language learning materials. Fischer subsequently adopted the Army’s new video-teletraining system to support language training for combat operations in Panama, Iraq, Somalia and the Balkans.
“DLI would not be what it is today, were it not for Don Fischer’s vision and leadership. There is no question about Don Fischer’s passion for the mission. It is the only thing that would explain why a former commandant would become the provost,” said DLIFLC Commandant Col. Danial D. Pick, to a wave of laughter in the audience.
Pick presented Fischer with a Superior Civil Service Award for exemplary service to DLIFLC over seven years and the U.S. flag which had been flown over the capital at the request of Congressman Sam Farr. Alec Arago, Farr’s representative, thanked Fischer for his 37 years of federal service to the nation.
Gen. Keith Alexander, the director of the National Security Agency, extended his gratitude to Fischer by having his representative, Sam Lipsky, present the general’s coin along with a letter.
“Personally, I want to thank you Don for strengthening the relationship between DLI and NSA over the past seven years, it has been incredibly fruitful,” said Lipsky.
In another letter, Air Force Brig. Gen. Gunther Mueller said, “As the single most knowledgeable senior DoD official in language education and training, Dr. Fisher set higher standards for language learners, implemented ‘best practice’ strategies and delivered record-breaking gains in language proficiency.”
During his tenure, Fischer oversaw the implementation of the Proficiency Enhancement Plan (PEP), triggered by a request by NSA to heighten student proficiency graduation rates to Level 3. PEP involved the reducing of class sizes, requiring higher aptitude entry scores, hiring more faculty, upgrading curricula, enhancing faculty training, and deploying cutting edge classroom technologies.
“Dr. Fisher drove DLI through the most dramatic and profound transformation in its history toward becoming the premier foreign language education and training institution in the world!” said Mueller.
Following the formal ceremony, Fischer joined the band performing with his electric guitar and sang a few numbers to astonished faculty who danced enthusiastically.
“I never knew he could play and sing,” said one faculty member, who filmed the event with her iPad.
“As for my departure, I have not gone yet. I will be back to finish up a few things here at DLI and then take on leadership of the DLI Foundation, an organization that promotes foreign language learning not only locally, but on a national level,” said Fischer.
Story and photo credits
Story and photos by Natela Cutter, Strategic Communications
Photo 1. DLIFLC Commandant Col. Danial D. Pick, presents outgoing provost Dr. Donald Fischer on Dec. 20 with a certificate that states the U.S. flag had been flown over the nation’s capital at the request of Congressman Sam Farr.
Photo 2. DLIFLC Assistant Commandant, Air Force Col. Laura Ryan, presents Dr. Donald Fischer with a a photo of service members, faculty, and staff on Soldier Field, Presidio of Monterey, Dec. 20.
Photo 3. Dr. Donald Fischer plays his electric guitar on stage before guests who attended his retirement ceremony on Dec. 20 at the Presidio of Monterey Tin Barn.