Fisher Gymnasium on Dedication Day
Fisher Gymnasium was built 1916-1917, and named for Dr. George J. Fisher, M.D., a leader in the YMCA, the Boy Scouts of America, and the United States Volleyball Association.
Beginning in 1904, Fisher was the YMCA’s international secretary for physical education and the Dean of the Summer Training Institute of the YMCA, a month-long conference at Silver Bay where young men came to learn about coaching and teaching baseball, basketball, gymnastics and other sports from the games’ leading authorities.
In 1919, Fisher moved to the Boy Scouts of America, which had held its first “encampment” at Silver Bay in 1910. Fisher served first as deputy Chief Scout Executive (1919-1943) and then as National Scout Commissioner (1943-1960).
Always concerned about the physical and moral health of young men, Fisher wrote the introduction for From Youth into Manhood (1909) by Winfield Scott Hall. When the first Boy Scout Handbook for Boys was published in 1912, Fisher was the author of the chapter on “Health and Endurance.”
Of great benefit to fitness, in Fisher’s opinion, was volleyball. Like basketball, volleyball was born in a YMCA. William Morgan (1870-1942) invented the game in 1895 at the YMCA in Holyoke, Massachusetts, where he was Director of Physical Education. Morgan had studied under James Naismith (1861-1939) who invented basketball in 1891 at nearby Springfield College, a training school for YMCA professionals. Morgan sought to create a game similar to Naismith’s basketball but suitable — active but with less contact — for older men; the result was volleyball.
While serving as Secretary of the YMCA War Work Office, George Fisher introduced volleyball in military training camps, both in the United States and abroad, helping its spread across the world. Fisher edited the Volleyball Guide from 1917 to 1947, and was the founder and first president (1928-1952) of the United States Volleyball Association.
George Fisher died in 1960; he was inducted into the Volleyball Hall of Fame in 1991.
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Fisher Gymnasium also calls to mind a Silver Bay legend: Fayette Dunklee, a master mason who built many of the fireplaces and foundations of houses on the Association grounds. While excavating for the foundation of the gymnasium in 1916, Dunklee discovered, in the roots of an old chestnut tree, a bottle containing $80, a stroke of good fortune that encourages everyone who has ever handled a spade or a trowel.