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Alice E. Fischer

I was the middle child of eleven children. We lived with our parents in a big house at the outskirts of Detroit, Michigan. Like most girls of my time, I learned to sew, cook, and take care of a house. I read very many books, took piano lessons, and liked outdoor play. Unlike most girls, I helped my father garden and had mathematics lessons from my older brother, who discovered when I was only six that I had a talent for math. I became a good student, at the top of my math and science classes, and graduated first in my class (photo, below) at Redford High School, Detroit, Michigan.

My brothers all graduated from the University of Michigan and I followed in their footsteps. I knew it was a good place to get an education and a good place to meet the kind of man I wanted to marry. I met Michael Fischer in a Physics class on my first week of classes. We began dating in December, competed in classes, worked on homework together, and married at the end of my Junior year.

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I received my B.A. in Mathematics in 1964 from the University of Michigan, five months after Mike graduated. That fall, we moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Mike started a Ph.D. program at Harvard and I worked as a programmer at the Loyal Protective Life Insurance Company.

I was happy during the two years that I spent there and learned a lot about business programming. However, I wanted to teach and needed a graduate education. I applied to Harvard, was accepted, and spent the next year earning my M.A. degree in Applied Mathematics. (Computer Science, as a degree program, didn't exist at that time.) Then worked one year for a software consulting house, while Mike finished his degree program.

When Mike graduated, we moved to Pittsburgh and started a family. In 1969, after only one year at Carnegie Mellon, Mike accepted a job at M.I.T. We returned to Cambridge with a tiny baby and I went back to school. Life became complex, as I tried to juggle being wife, mother, homeowner, and student.


With one child and good child care, I was able to begin work on my thesis. I kept some of the pages from those days; they are cut and taped together, then cut again and taped again. There is, literally, writing between the lines, and crayon and other evidence of a baby stain the pages. After our second child was born, further work on my dissertation became impossible. We lived in Toronto for one term, near Frankfort, Germany for a summer, and Zurich, Switzerland for the next summer. Then we moved to Seattle, Washington, where our third son was born.

After six years at the University of Washington, we returned to the east: Mike to a job at Yale, and me to a job search. I telephoned our four local universities. One did not return the call. One said that, since they were in the middle of a job search, they would not talk to me. (I never figured THAT out!) Two offered me an opportunity, and I took a part-time position at UNH for the spring term, becoming a full time faculty member in the fall of 1982.

Within a month, I was put in charge of getting University approval for the proposed new undergraduate computer science program. I served as Undergraduate Coordinator from 1983-1996, as a member of the Faculty Senate from 1985 to 1998 and from 2001 to the present, as Chair of the Faculty Senate in 1994, and as department Chair since the fall of 1997.

Computer languages, how they work and how people learn them, are my area of greatest interest. I strives to understand what makes compilers and language designers tick. This early interest led to my dissertation, two textbooks, and current involvement in object-oriented software engineering.

My other love is teaching. I am a skilled programmer and debugger and I expect students also to develop those skills. In a never-ending quest to promote clean style and efficient programming, I have been known to read every line of a student program and use lots of red pen.

I have been married to Michael J. Fischer longer than anyone can remember. We are the parents of three adult sons and a foster daughter. Our family has hosted ten exchange students from seven countries. Nature and nurture run hand-in-hand here: all three sons and several of the exchange-sons have followed Mike and Alice professionally into some area related to computer science.

In my spare time, I like to figure skate with Mike (ice dance) play the piano, garden, cook, and care for my pets (a dog, a cat, and three parakeets). I have also been actively involved in the Hamden and New Haven communities, serving for five years on the Hamden Board of Education and for many years with the Yale Figure Skating Club as a board member, preschool curriculum developer, and/or volunteer instructor. My biography is listed in Who's Who in America and Who's Who in American Education.

Last updated: 11/29/01 Comments about this website should be directed to the A. Fischer