Roanoke College

Fishwick left his mark on College and community

  • Fishwick left his mark on College and community

  • 02/15/11
  • By Sharon Nanz '09

    John "Jack" P. Fishwick '37, one of Roanoke College's most distinguished alumni, died on August 9, 2010, at the age of 93. Fishwick, a Roanoke College Medalist, served as president of Norfolk & Western Railway from 1970 to 1981.

     A native of Roanoke, Fishwick graduated from Jefferson High School and attended the College during the Great Depression. Fishwick, who majored in English, served as editor of the Rawenoch and was a member of the Kappa Alpha fraternity. After graduating from Harvard Law School and beginning his law career in New York, Fishwick served in the U.S. Navy for three years during World War II, advancing to lieutenant commander.

    In 1945, Fishwick joined the legal department at Norfolk & Western and rose through the ranks to become its president and CEO until his retirement in 1981. Known throughout the industry as a visionary leader, Fishwick's foresight paved the way for Norfolk & Western's merger with Southern Railway in the early 1980s. The resulting Norfolk Southern Corporation is now one of the nation's largest rail companies.

    Following his retirement from the railroad, Fishwick practiced law in Washington, D.C., until 1986, when he returned to Roanoke. Active in cultural and civic affairs, Fishwick was a founder of the Center in the Square cultural center in downtown Roanoke. He was a past president and director of the Roanoke Chamber of Commerce and director of the Virginia State Chamber of Commerce. He served as chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia.

    Fishwick was married to fellow alum Blair Wiley Fishwick '37, who died in 1987. He later married Doreen Hamilton, who survives him, as do three children, two stepchildren and six grandchildren.

    Fishwick was a strong supporter of Roanoke College and served on the Board of Trustees from 1964 to 1972. For more than a decade, he and Blair Fishwick owned the current President's House, selling it to the College in 1968. In 1972, he spoke at the College's commencement and was awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

    When Fishwick retired from Norfolk & Western, the company honored him with a large contribution to the College, which was used to establish the John P. Fishwick Professor of English endowed chair, currently held by Dr. Robert Schultz. The Fishwicks recently established The Doreen Hamilton Fishwick Endowment for National Merit Scholars. While the list of Fishwick's public awards and accomplishments is lengthy, Doreen Fishwick said her husband also made many anonymous contributions to those in need.

    In addition to possessing keen business acumen, Fishwick played a mean game of tennis and was an award-winning abstract artist. He championed liberal arts education and, in a public speech, said an individual's mind "must be sharpened by the disciplines of the liberal arts. Only then can he attain some understanding of himself."

    "Jack Fishwick represented the loftiest ideals of Roanoke College," said President Michael C. Maxey. "His impact on the nation, his community and his College were of the highest order. He loved Roanoke College and he expressed that affection in lasting and powerful ways." 

    About the author: Sharon Nanz '09 is a freelance writer and an avid Masters swimmer. While at Roanoke, she majored in English and interned in the Office of Public Relations.