Never missing a beat

Without fail, English Prof. William Fishback, a senior lecturer, can be found swimming at the AFC at 6 a.m. daily unless a swim practice stands in his way. With such dedication to a fitness routine, one could say Fishback never misses a beat, but in more than one aspect of his life.

Born in Lexington, Ky. and having grown up in Savannah, Ga., Fishback went on to graduate from Washington & Lee University in 1956 with a B.A. in journalism. Upon graduation, Fishback entered the world of professional journalism, working as a writer and ultimately an editor for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. While lacking a master's degree could have been a disadvantage for Fishback, this was not the case.

"Back then, it was a seller's market -- that is, we were heavily recruited by news organizations," Fishback said. "Unlike you guys who have such a struggle landing that first job, there were a lot of positions available so I was able to get a job."

An interest in writing and news developed from his mother's career as a writer, as did his involvement in his high school publication and later the town paper during the summers of his college years. Fishback worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch for 10 years, where he was the assistant state editor for the latter five years. Although his journalistic career is over, Fishback said the reporter that lives inside never ceases to exist.

"If you've been in the press, you know exactly what is being deployed and what is being considered in the coverage," Fishback said. "When a story is breaking, the juices flow."

Never before having considered teaching as a potential profession, Fishback was asked by the then-University President Edgar F. Shannon, Jr. if he would serve as the information service director, a job dealing with the press. In 1976, English department chair Robert Kellogg proposed an idea for a news writing class to be taught by Fishback, which President Frank Hereford supported.

In 1991, Fishback retired from University Press Relations and became President John T. Casteen, III's special advisor. He was later named the University's first senior lecturer and a consultant to the five-year billion-dollar Capital Campaign in 1995.

Fishback was honored with the Faculty Raven Award in 2004, which marked the 100th anniversary of the Raven Society.

While he recently celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary with his wife Sara and is a busy grandfather of four, Fishback still maintains high involvement inside and outside of the University. He is a member of the founding board for the Center for Politics at the University and serves on the Washington & Lee Board of Trustees. In addition he is a trustee of the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation, which oversees the National Cathedral in Washington.

Joe Mullen, a visiting lecturer for Darden Law School and a former student of Fishback's, couldn't speak more highly of his former professor. Mullen was one of the creators of The University Journal, a competitor to The Cavalier Daily for 17 years beginning in 1979, and said Fishback helped him refine his writing and handle the leadership aspects of publications.

"He had practical experience before he taught, so it wasn't a theoretical discussion," Mullen said. "The stories he would tell in class were always very insightful" and illustrative of what he was teaching.

Having worked under four presidents of the University for 40 years -- 30 of which he spent in the classroom -- Fishback said he wished he had gotten into teaching sooner.

"It is a source of great satisfaction to help a student gain confidence in writing, and the greatest reward of all is to see former students excel and say that what we did in the classroom in the writing class made a difference," Fishback said. "Making a difference is everything."

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