John W. Fisher: What a Life!
THE BALL FOUNDATION of Muncie, Indiana, awarded a grant to the Community Foundation of Randolph County, Indiana, to employ Dane Starbuck to write a biography of John W. Fisher, long time Chairman of the Ball Foundation’s board of directors and former President and Chairman of the Board of Ball Corporation. Mr. Fisher, 1915-2009, was one of the most remarkable entrepreneurs in the Midwest in the last half of the 20th Century.
As President & CEO and later Chairman of Ball Corporation, he took Ball Brothers, a family-owned company founded in 1880 in Buffalo, New York, to become publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange in 1970. Later Ball Corporation became and remains a Fortune 500 Company. Now headquartered in Broomfield, Colorado, Ball Corp is the largest container manufacturer in the world, employing more than 21,000 employees in 15 countries in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. Its annual sales exceed $12 billion.
John Fisher and his brother-in-law, Edmund Ball, were also responsible for the establishment of Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colorado, in the mid-1950s. Ball Aerospace was the first manufacturer of satellites for NASA in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Today it is a principal in the construction of the James Webb Telescope, a $10 billion NASA project, which, when launched in late 2021, will be several times more powerful than the current Hubble Telescope.
In 1964, Mr. Fisher also established Fisher Properties, Inc., a family own company that owns and operates, or did in the past, a high-end furniture company in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a striped bass farm in Alabama, the largest cherry orchard in Michigan, two large Indiana farms. Fisher Properties was a major investor in one the largest oil and gas companies in the United States. This was all initiated by John Fisher’s vision.
In addition to his leadership of Ball Corporation, John Fisher served as Chairman of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) based in Washington, D.C., President of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, a director of the New York Stock Exchange, and Chairman of Ball Hospital and Ball Brothers Foundation. He also served on the boards of directors of numerous companies throughout the United States, particularly in the Midwest. His work as a business and non-profit leader, philanthropist, and father of seven children and 29 grandchildren was unparallel in Indiana in the last 50 years of the 20th Century.
Author’s Note: Dane Starbuck traveled to the states of Colorado, Michigan, Delaware, New York, Tennessee, and throughout a large portion of Indiana to conduct research to write the story of John Fisher. The biography remains available for sale by the Community Foundation of Randolph County, Indiana.
John W. Fisher, then Chairman emeritus of the Board, is given the honor of opening the New York Stock Exchange on April 27, 2005, the day that Ball Corporation celebrated the 125th anniversary of its founding. Other Ball directors and employees, including then President David Hoover (behind the podium in a red tie), gather around to help celebrate the company’s milestone. Photograph, Courtesy, Ball Corporation, 2005
John Fisher and Janice Ball days before their wedding in Leland, Michigan, July 1940
John W. Fisher, left, served as Chairman of the 12,000 member National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) when he had the opportunity to meet then U.S. President Ronald Regan in Washington, D.C., 1981.
On August 10, 1979, Ball Corporation was featured in a New York Times article titled “Ball: Taking the Lid Off Profits.” Here John W. Fisher, then President and CEO of Ball Corp., proudly stands before a sample of Ball’s many products, from glass jars for Planters Peanuts and Miracle Whip mayonnaise, to Pepsi and Budweiser cans, to a small replica of the satellite that Ball Aeronautics manufactured for NASA’s first satellite launches in the early 1960s.
Photograph, Courtesy, Ball Corporation, 1979.
The back cover to John W. Fisher, What a Life!