In 1964, Nova Southeastern University was born out of a storefront in downtown Fort Lauderdale. And shortly thereafter, the decision was made to get Abraham S. Fischler involved in the fledgling institution of higher learning.
Fast-forward 50 years, and the positive influence Fischler has had on NSU is obvious, as well as education in the Broward County community and beyond. To recognize all he has meant to education in our community, as well as to the university, on Aug. 1 NSU celebrated his 50th service anniversary on the heels of NSU’s own 50th anniversary, which was celebrated in 2014.
Before joining NSU in 1966 as the director of the behavioral sciences center and dean of graduate studies for NSU’s three original centers — behavioral sciences, oceanographic, and physical science — Fischler was a medic in the U.S. Navy and a visiting professor in various states and countries. He also served as NSU’s executive vice president and was named the first James Donn Professor of Education, a title he retains today. This distinction was created in 1967 by James Donn, senior professor of science education and an early supporter of NSU. After years of serving the students, faculty and staff at NSU, Fischler continues his service by remaining involved on campus.
Early in Fischler’s career, many saw that he would bring a pioneering spirit to NSU. Though he arrived at the university while it was in severe debt and likely to shut down, he continued to assist in NSU’s success in any way he could, and his appointment to president was even described in the book by Julian Pleasants, “The Making of Nova Southeastern University,” as one of the greatest decisions NSU made to ensure its survival.
Throughout his career, Fischler’s primary goal was to improve the way students learn. He continuously proposed that education be catered to suit the needs and learning styles of individual students, to provide them with the most effective education possible. Fischler continually advocated for education as a top priority, as he believed that education reform is the only way to establish an environment where each student, and the nation as a whole, succeeds. He brought this vision — to make the student the classroom — to NSU, where he believed that innovative possibilities were endless.
“I realized if we were going to have a school responsive to the individual student, we had to bring technology into the classroom as a vehicle to individualize instruction,” Fischler said.
After NSU’s first president, Warren Winstead, unexpectedly resigned in 1969 when NSU suffered from severe financial issues, Fischler was asked to succeed him. Despite Fischler’s agreement to only hold the position for two years while the Board of Trustees helped mend NSU’s debts and brought a new president on board, Fischler remained as president for 22 years.
During his tenure from 1970-1992, he not only brought NSU out of significant debt, but helped build the foundation for NSU to be successful in all of its future endeavors. Under his leadership, NSU continued to develop, and, by the end of his presidential term, NSU became the second-largest private not-for-profit university in Florida. Student enrollment increased from 57 students to 10,600, and the university achieved financial stability. He also helped create NSU University School — a college preparatory school for junior kindergarten through high school — and created course offerings that emphasized technological development and innovation. Other accolades include expanding the Oceanographic Center, creating new dormitories, commencing campus renovations, helping NSU’s law school earn accreditation and developing the concept of student clusters and distance education, which had a lasting national impact.
But even with his continued dedication to promoting a well-rounded environment for students to grow and develop, to the people around him, Fischler was always so much more than his job. In any photo, Fischler has a smile that can only be described as warm and contagious, and with that smile, he dedicated a large portion of his life to serving and promoting a happy, healthy and educated community.
Along with being a part of the Florida Education Foundation, Broward Education Foundation, School Board of Broward County, and Economic and Industrial Development Board of Davie, as well as consulting various state departments of education and multiple school districts, Fischler has written numerous articles and publications on science education and advanced teaching methods. With more than 25 published research studies, books and articles, Fischler earned national recognition for his devotion to bettering education for students.
If those commitments weren’t enough of a benefit to the community, he also was involved in multiple scientific organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His activism has not halted. He remains active in local, county and state boards and committees, such as the Florida Bar Foundation, the Broward Education Foundation and the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center.
With his continuous activism in the community, Fischler’s work has hardly gone unnoticed. He has earned numerous awards and recognitions throughout his time at NSU for the incredible impact he has made at local, state and national levels.
“The greatest gift we could provide to students is the gift of education, and Dr. Fischler has provided that gift every year since he started his career,” said NSU President George Hanbury. “Our students, university and community have all gained incredible hope and promise for the future because of Abe’s continued dedication to the pursuit of education. The charm, grace and display of commitment he demonstrated to all of us will forever serve as a leading example of realized potential.”
Most community members may have noticed one of his most popular recognitions: Abraham S. Fischler Blvd., named in his honor. In addition, NSU’s college of education was named the Abraham S. Fischler College of Education, established in 1984 when former dean Richard Goldman suggested that NSU rename the Center for Advancement of Education because of Fischler’s dedication to the pursuit of and success in education. He has also received an honorary Doctor of Law from NSU, the Silver Medallion Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the Spirit of 100 Award from the Broward Committee of 100, the Medal of Honor Award from the Florida Bar Association, and the Distinguished Educator Award from the Association of Independent Schools of Florida.
Fischler’s accomplishments serve to remind all of those at NSU just how special this university is. Fischler, like so many of the faculty, staff and students at NSU, has dedicated his life to serving others, and, in doing so, realized his potential for leaving an impact on all of those around him.
This may be his 50th anniversary at NSU, but his legacy at NSU will last a lifetime.
PHOTO CREDIT: NOVA SOUTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY