UPDATED: Thursday, June 16, at 9:29 a.m.
Rich cigar smoke, quaint fishing trips, and a love of strong scotch are trademarks of Samuel M. Fisher ’15 that friends and family members fondly remember. Fisher—former president of Hillel and Goldman Sachs analyst—passed away last weekend of an unexpected heart complication after he completed a triathlon race in Stamford, Conn. He was 24.
Known as a vivacious person, an inspirational leader and a family-oriented brother, Fisher was naturally kind and welcoming.
“Every now and then, when you take a step back, you realize that he never stopped—he really was always doing things for those around him,” Jacob R. Drucker ’15, a former Crimson editorial editor and classmate of Fisher’s, wrote in an email. “I think the prevailing sentiment has always been that things were just better when Sammy Fisher’s around. He didn’t give you a choice—he just made things better.”
David F. Sackstein ’14, one of Fisher’s closest friends and mentors at the College, and his “big brother” in the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity, said that he remembers frequenting the iHop on Eliot street late at night, where the two would buy meals for homeless people and those who they thought needed a friend.
Fisher’s friends from Hillel remember him vividly as one of the first people they encountered on campus. Edyt J. Dickstein ’17, current president of Hillel, said when she was a freshman, she couldn’t help but comment on the “smile lines” that nature to Fisher’s face. She said his welcoming presence drew her to the organization and inspired her to take an active leadership role.
“Sam was in many ways the first friendly face at Hillel,” Dickstein said. “A lot of what I’ve tried to do since then was follow in his footsteps.”
According to Getzel Davis, a rabbi at Hillel, many current and former members of Hillel came to the organization because of Fisher’s effervescent presence and personal outreach efforts.
“He bridged a lot of gaps between the Hillel community as someone who could be involved with the different groups within the organization, and I think that’s a part of his legacy,” Elena F. Hoffenberg ’16 said.
During his time at the College, Fisher not only worked tirelessly at Hillel, but practiced music in a self-titled jazz band comprised of himself and whatever friends he could find for an event. Though the band members might have been fluid, the venue often was not: Hillel served largely as the stage for Fisher’s public performances. Fisher, though a classically trained pianist and cellist, often played an acoustic bass guitar at these performances.
Fisher’s friends remember his humor — “corny,” at times, Drucker said, but charming nonetheless. Though funny, Fisher’s older brother Jonathan M. Fisher, a student at Harvard Medical School, stressed that Samuel held a gravitas and wisdom beyond his years.
“I felt like even though I was the older brother by a year and a few months, he always felt like the older brother to me, because I felt like I was always learning things from him,” Jonathan Fisher said.
At his core, Fisher was a family man. Nearly every summer, Fisher and his three brothers and father congregated at Nickerson State Park in Cape Cod, Mass. for a camping trip.
“The fishing was so important,” Jonathan Fisher said. “That was like a big part of—sort of the meat with my relationship with Samuel. ”
Fisher’s family-oriented mindset was a large factor in his decision to attend Harvard, even though the choice was difficult because his older brother attended Yale.
“He was this close to going to Yale just because I was there, because our relationship meant so much to him,” Jonathan Fisher said. “I think, actually, the main reason why he ended up coming here [Harvard] was because it was close to home, it was close to the rest of the family, and it really didn’t make sense to go to Connecticut when the rest of the family was right here.”
While family was important to Fisher’s identity, his Jewish heritage was just as an integral to him. Before attending Harvard, Fisher took a gap year at Yeshivat Orayta, a seminary in Jerusalem to study Jewish texts and Jewish law.
At the helm of Hillel, Fisher tried his best to draw in Jewish students from different heritages.
“I think over the years in this community, he really started to relate really well to the diversity that exists here in this community,” Sackstein said. “He sort of dedicated himself at the point to making sure that even if people identified Jewishly in different ways, that he would be part of giving them opportunities to relate to that identity.”
After Harvard, Fisher was accomplished. In the span of the past few weeks, Fisher closed his first transaction at Goldman Sachs, according to colleague and classmate Robert C. Kivell ’15.
“He was a model co-worker, and was ranked at the top of our Analyst class,” Kivell wrote of Fisher. “Sam’s lion-sized personality and heart made him a favorite of everyone in the office.”
Fisher’s supervisor, Gregory P. Lee ’90, said that Fisher’s personality and compassion for his colleagues made him stand out from other new employees.
“He was an incredibly useful, valuable, and creative member of the team,” Lee said. “And maybe more important than that—because everyone who graduates from Harvard, and everyone who works at Goldman Sachs is going to be at a certain high caliber—but what I think really differentiated Sam is how great of a human being he was.”
Fisher’s final weekend was spent competing alongside colleagues from Goldman Sachs at a charity triathlon in Stamford, Conn. The charity that hosted the event—Kids in Crisis—serves kids hailing from backgrounds of domestic violence.
Fisher, who was initially slated to only compete in the swim leg of the race, decided to run as well after a colleague of his expressed anxiety about completing the race alone, Lee said. He collapsed shortly after crossing the finish line.
The Harvard Hillel Society is accepting donations in Fisher’s honor through the giving page on the society’s website.
–Staff writer Brandon J. Dixon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @BrandonJoDixon.
CORRECTION: June 16, 2016
A previous version of the article incorrectly stated that the fraternity to which Samuel Fisher belonged was Alpha Phi Epsilon. In fact, the name of the fraternity is Alpha Epsilon Pi.
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