News

August 22, 2007

James Fisher ’77, William Rutledge ’63 Serve on National WWII Museum Board

Masters of the Air by Donald L. Miller, MacCracken Professor of History, inspired involvement

At a Lafayette-Princeton football game, Lafayette trustee emeritus William Rutledge ’63 told trustee James Fisher ’77 about Masters of the Air: America’s Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany, the third WWII book by Donald L. Miller, MacCracken Professor of History. Fisher quickly read it and decided he wanted to become more involved in preserving the nation’s memory of American soldiers’ experiences in the war.

He and Rutledge, a friend of Miller, are now serving three-year terms on the board of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

“I believe strongly that we must preserve and cherish the stories of those who served in WWII,” says Rutledge. “Their sacrifices made possible our continuing way of life. I am blessed to count among my friends several WWII heroes whose understated personal accounts could each constitute a ‘best seller.’”

For Fisher, his service on the museum’s board is a way to honor his father, who flew 31 missions as a tail gunner on a B-17 flying fortress bomber and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Miller’s book helped Fisher put his father’s experiences in perspective.

“My dad’s generation, at very young ages, volunteered to save the world,” he says. “Their sacrifices in terms of loss of life or being wounded enabled all of us to enjoy the freedom we have today. As my dad grew older, he opened up about his experiences, which are consistent with Dr. Miller’s chronicles of the Eighth Air Force in his book, although my dad tended to understate the terror he and others frequently experienced. Reading Don’s book put clarity to many of my dad’s experiences that he tended to downplay. Don’s book also made me understand what life was like when he wasn’t flying, again something my dad soft-pedaled.”

Fisher believes his museum involvement is a testament to the strength of the Lafayette connection.

“Bill Rutledge and I frequently discuss history and how it seems to repeat itself,” he says. “Having Lafayette serve as the catalyst for this is a simple example of the power of Lafayette: a great professor, his research book, alumni network, and thus three guys who love history that get together to talk WWII history and end up as trustees of this preservation of history.”

Rutledge acknowledges the breadth of his Lafayette education, which gave him an appreciation for all disciplines, not just his major.

“I was a metallurgical engineering major at Lafayette,” he says. “The history of man’s use of metals is a close surrogate for the development of modern civilizations. I was fortunate to be able to take elective courses on Shakespeare, fine arts, geography, and economics. Dr. Leon McGready recruited me into metallurgy and helped instill in me the idea of lifelong learning.”

“I am honored to have been a member of the Lafayette Board of Trustees for the past 15 years,” he adds. “The College has grown stronger in every dimension – largely due to the creative leadership of [former president] Arthur Rothkopf ’55 and now President Dan Weiss.”

Copyright © 2007, Lafayette College.

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James Fisher ’77, William Rutledge ’63 Serve on National WWII Museum Board
Lafayette trustee James Fisher ’77 and trustee emeritus William Rutledge ’63 and were inspired by Masters of the Air, the third WWII book by Donald L. Miller, MacCracken Professor of History, to become more involved in preserving the nation’s memory of American soldiers’ experiences in the war. They are serving three-year terms on the board of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. “I believe strongly that we must preserve and cherish the stories of those who served in WWII,” says Rutledge. “Their sacrifices made possible our continuing way of life. I am blessed to count among my friends several WWII heroes whose understated personal accounts could each constitute a ‘best seller.’”

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