this story on Fischer published in the university alumni magazine. Several of Fischer's former students, including Steve Whitfield, Anne Plane, Richard Rath, and Allan Kulikoff, offer testimonials on Fischer's fifty-year teaching career at Brandeis. I particularly enjoyed Fischer's discussion of why he chose Brandeis over other universities. Here is a taste:
A little more than a half century ago, historian David Hackett
Fischer was a newly minted PhD from Johns Hopkins University with offers
in hand from four universities, including one from a very young, brash
institution in Waltham.
Clearly in demand, the ambitious historian set out to do what any
well-trained scholar would do: conduct primary research about each
To his amazement, Fischer says, at the first “very old and eminent
school in the Northeast” he met the president and the dean — a sure sign
a meaty historical discussion with two intellectual heavyweights was
imminent, or so he thought. Instead, the pair was more interested in
“who my grandparents had been and where I bought my sport coat,” Fischer
recalls with a laugh. Strike one.
Next, Fischer says, he visited a Southern university, “a great and
honorable place,” where he was delighted to learn that some members of
the history department had a long-standing tradition of convening every
Monday evening to discuss the great topics of the day. During his visit,
the topic would be capital punishment. Fischer duly marshaled his
arguments. Once the discussion started, however, Fischer discovered the
focus wasn’t on the pros and cons of capital punishment. The debate was
about the best methods of execution. Strike two.
The third university Fischer traveled to was a large Western
university with its very own airport. There, Fischer learned, he would
be enlisted to teach the introductory American history course. So far,
so good. Then he asked about enrollment in the course, and discovered he
would be instructing 1,000 students. Strike three.
When Fischer finally arrived on the Brandeis campus, he walked to the
then new faculty club, where he was scheduled to meet Professors
Leonard Levy and John Roche, both experts on constitutional history.
Caught up in a passionate debate about the finer points of substantive
and procedural due process — “fists crashed on the table, and coffee
cups went leaping in the air,” recalls Fischer — neither Levy nor Roche
noticed the visitor.
Finally, Fischer recounts, “Professor Levy glanced over at me and
asked, ‘Why are you here?’ I thought, This is the place for me.”
I also found it interesting that members of the Clinton-Gore campaign staff read Fischer's Albion's Seed in 1992 so that they were attuned to regional differences across the country.