2017 Phelps Award Recipient Kenneth Fisher
Chairman and CEO of the Fisher House Foundation, he oversees a network of 71 Fisher Houses for military and veterans’ families throughout the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany. These homes provide much-needed housing to more than 30,000 families each year, allowing them to stay close to loved ones being treated at major military and VA medical centers. Since its inception the Fisher House Foundation has helped more than 277,000 families, saving them an estimated $320 million in out-of-pocket travel and lodging costs. The non-profit has also awarded more than $11 million in scholarships and received the highest rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent evaluator of charities, for 12 straight years.
In his work on behalf of service members, Ken continues a legacy started by his late uncle Zachary Fisher, who created the Fisher House Foundation in 1990. The non-profit is part of Fisher Family Charities, which includes the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, the Intrepid Relief Fund and the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum, where Ken also serves as co-chairman. In 2007, Ken was selected from a field of 200 nominees for inclusion as one of “America’s Best Leaders,” a collaboration between U.S. News & World Report and Harvard University’s Center for Public Leadership that defines a leader simply as a person who “motivates people to work collaboratively to accomplish great things.”
That same year Ken was appointed by former President George W. Bush to the President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors, which conducted a comprehensive review of the care provided to soldiers who return from the battlefield. Among its recommended proposals was the need to strengthen support systems for families relocating to care for wounded service members, an idea the Fisher House Foundation helped pioneer more than 17 years prior.
For the 2.8 million veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – and the families who lost loved ones in the conflicts – a drawdown in fighting did not mean an end to their struggles, as many veterans dealt with life-changing injuries, mental health challenges, and inadequate access to federal support. As the needs of veterans has grown, the Fisher House Foundation has continued to expand its initiatives, providing scholarships to military spouses and their children; airline tickets to injured service members; and funding support to other non-profits that improve the quality of life for military veterans and their families in innovative ways.
In 2009, Ken received the Association of the United States Army’s Highest Civilian honor, the George C. Marshall Medal. When the Friars Club, a longtime supporter of service members, decided to present the Lincoln Awards in 2015 to recognize exceptional citizens who provided opportunities and support to American veterans, they chose Ken Fisher as an inaugural recipient.
A graduate of Ithaca College, Ken received an honorary Doctor of Commercial Science from the university in May 2016. The award caps a series of distinctions, inductions, and high civilian honors from a wide-ranging list that includes the Department of Veterans Affairs (The Secretary’s Award, 2004); Department of Defense (Medal for Distinguished Public Service, 2012, 2013); the Special Forces Association (Honorary Green Beret, 2007); the United States Marine Corps (Honorary Marine, 2011); the Order of Military Medical Merit (Inducted 2001); the Paralyzed Veterans of America (Public Awareness Award,); A+E Television Networks (Lives That Make A Difference Award).