Editor’s note: Are there former mentors you would like to connect with again? Illinois State staff will find them and share their updates in a future issue, including contact information. Send the names to Susan Blystone at email@example.com, call (309) 438-2667, or mail to 1101 N. Main Street, Normal, IL 61790.
Alumnus remembers caring ISU couple
Gary and Judy Fish exemplify why it is that Illinois State can legitimately claim to be a place where faculty and staff care about students. Their kindness to Bill McMichael as a discouraged freshman empowered him to finish his business administration degree in 1980.
Now a successful underwriter, Bill still remembers the day he was walking on campus worried about how he would tell his parents he had decided to quit school. Gary was headed to campus in a snow storm to teach his accounting students when he saw the perplexed young man. He offered Bill a ride and asked him what was on his mind.
Upon learning that Bill was struggling to get the guidance he needed in cementing an academic plan, Gary wrote out a note with specific directions that it be given to his wife, Judy. He then drove Bill to Academic Advisement, where Judy worked.
“She invited me into her office to talk about what was going on. She then said from that day on she would be my advisor and take care of me,” Bill recalled. Years later he is still full of gratitude. “I just want to tell them thanks for what they did for me.”
Both Gary and Judy were thrilled that Bill searched for them through the “Where Are They Now” column, as it was such personal interaction with students that made their Illinois State careers so meaningful.
Gary is a CPA who joined the University’s Department of Accounting in 1966 after earning a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Illinois. He later completed a doctorate there in education while teaching at ISU.
“I chose Illinois State because it was a great place of opportunity,” Gary said, noting that at the time he was hired there was no formal College of Business. He was one of a core group of professors who partnered to build the curriculum and hire additional faculty. He even secured the department’s first public accounting gift—a $500 donation from Arthur Andersen. In those days, $500 was a lot of money.
Beyond some administrative duties, Gary taught undergraduate and graduate classes. He also worked closely with students, as the University had not yet formally established an advisement center in the late 1960s and relied on faculty to provide guidance.
The creation of the center resulted in an opportunity for Judy to join the University. She too was a University of Illinois graduate, which is where the couple met. Judy completed a degree in home economics education and taught at the junior high level. She later earned a master’s in guidance and counseling.
After taking a break from full-time work to raise three sons, Judy was recruited in 1974 to join the Academic Advisement Center during it’s earliest days of existence. Students were required to work with an advisor every semester, giving Judy the chance to build a rapport.
“There were a lot who didn’t have the maturity yet or the study skills, while others were not financially able to carry a full load,” she said. “I spent a lot of time working with them and felt a connection.”
Gary had a similar bond with students in his classroom, caring as much for their personal well-being as their academic progress. He recalls giving a teaching assistant—who is now an accounting professor at Indiana University—a little cash for a McDonald’s meal. He spent hours just listening as students worked through difficult situations.
The two of them impacted myriad students in the decades prior to their retirement, which was in 1996 for Judy and came a year later for Gary. They continue to participate in campus activities, with Gary still involved in the field through professional affiliations that began during his faculty days.
He served several years on various committee of the Illinois CPA Society (ICPAS), the Illinois Board of Examiners, and National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). He is a past president of the Illinois CPA Society, and the first faculty member ever to hold the position.
Gary has also worked as one of the original members appointed to NASBA’s CPA Examinations Committee. He is now serving on the American Institute of CPAs Board of Examiners, which develops and publishes the national CPA examination. Members are proposing to take the exam international.
The work allows for much travel, which both he and Judy enjoy. They also treasure time with their family, including sons Terry, Rob, and Mike, as well as five grandchildren. Volunteer and church work are also an important part of their lives, as Gary and Judy continue to make it their mission to care for others.
Contact the Fishs:
Gary and Judy Fish
1908 Oakwood Avenue
Bloomington, Il 61704