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Leon H. Fisher

Leon H. Fisher (July 11, 1918 October 16, 2012) was Teaching Excellence Chair for the Association from 2000-2006, and a regular attendee at Asilomar. He will be remembered with great fondness by all of us who knew him.

Leon passed away of natural causes, after a long illness, on Tuesday, October 16, 2012 in his home, in the presence of his loving family. He was laid to rest on Friday, October 19 at Alta Mesa Memorial Park, Palo Alto, CA, alongside Phyllis, his beloved wife of 67 years.

Leon H. Fisher passed way peacefully October 16, 2012, at home in Atherton, California, his residence for more than 50 years, in the company of his loving family. Leon was born in Montreal, Canada on July 11, 1918, moved to San Francisco in 1920, and was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1925. He attended Lowell High School in San Francisco, where he met his future wife, Phyllis Kahn, and graduated as valedictorian in 1934 at the age of 15. He earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees in chemistry, in 1938 and 1940, and his Ph.D. in physics in 1943, from the University of California, Berkeley. Leon and Phyllis (Kahn) Fisher (1919-2009), his loving wife of 67 years, were married in San Francisco on December 21, 1941 and made their first home in Berkeley, CA. Leon s professional life included many years as a teacher, touching the lives of numerous physics students at UC Berkeley (1943), the University of New Mexico (1944), and New York University (1946-1961). In addition to being a professor, he served as an academic administrator, at the University of Illinois, Chicago, where he was department head of Informational Engineering, and at California State University, Hayward, where he served as Dean of the School of Sciences. His dedication to teaching was evident in many positions he took post retirement, including California State University, San Jose, and Stanford University, where his course Physics for Poets most nearly spanned his scholarly breadth. Leon was tapped by the Los Alamos (NM) Scientific Laboratory where he worked as a young physicist on the Manhattan Project from 1944-46 to help develop the first atomic bomb. In 1985, Phyllis reflected on their personal life during this historic period in her book Los Alamos Experience. Leon s scientific leadership continued with his founding the First Gaseous Electronics Conference in 1948. Returning in 1961 to Northern California, Leon embarked on a career in applied physics, as manager of plasma physics at the Lockheed Missiles and Space Company (1961-1970), with a hiatus to head the plasma physics lab at General Telephone Electric Labs (1962-63). He was a Fellow of the American Physical Society. Leon and Phyllis spent an especially rich period of their lives in Tokyo; he worked as the senior liaison scientist at the Office of Naval Research (1979-1982) to foster scientific collaboration across Asia. Living in the Roppongi district of Tokyo, they held weekly informal English conversation classes in their home. The extensive travel assignments, along with the conversation classes, led to deep friendships that lasted across continents throughout their lives. Leon s retirement was as full and satisfying as his professional life had been. His dedication to education continued through his service as the Teaching Excellence Chair for the Northern California Association of Phi Beta Kappa from 2000-2006. Leon volunteered at the Bechtel International Center at Stanford until 2011, teaching English classes for foreign students, continuing his tradition of meeting people through language. In addition to the formal teaching roles, Leon was the consummate teacher by example. His enthusiasm for learning persisted throughout his life, and inspired his family and friends. Leon s house was always filled with the sound of music, especially opera and Schubert lieder. Books also filled the house, and his favorites included English classics from Shakespeare, Dickens and Trollope, along with stories that chronicled the family life he held in such high value, including Mordecai Richler, Thomas Mann, and Vikram Seth, among many others. Leon s devotion to his wife, especially in her last years, his children, and his grandchildren was truly inspirational. He was a highly engaged husband, parent, and grandparent. Leon s warmth and kindness lives on in the fond memories of his four children, Robert A. Fisher, Lawrence E. Fisher (Valerie), Carol Fisher Slotnick (Lawrence), and David B. Fisher (Diane), his grandchildren Andy Fisher, Lael (Fisher) Woods, Jonathan Fisher, Matthew Fisher, Benjamin Slotnick, Rachel Slotnick, Gabriel Slotnick, and Danielle Fisher, and his great-grandchildren Talia, Aaron and Ryan Woods. He will be deeply missed by all who loved him. Donations in Leon s name may be made to the Oshman Jewish Community Seniors Program (, or to Peninsula Volunteers, ( Sinai Memorial Chapel From

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