John Fisher

UT Knoxville, ’38

Ball Corporation, now a Fortune 500 Company with more than 13,000 employees, faced possible closure shortly after World War II. But John Fisher grew it into the global leader it is today.

Five brothers began Ball in 1880 by making wood-jacketed tin cans for products like kerosene lamps and home-canning food. In 1884, they expanded their products to glass, but after World War II, the company needed to modernize. Fisher guided the company into petroleum engineering equipment, photo-engraving, plastics and high-tech equipment for defense and space.

Fisher, originally from Walland, Tennessee, graduated from UT Knoxville in 1938. After working as a national field secretary for the Delta Tau Delta fraternity for two years, he joined Ball as a trainee.

Less than 30 years later, he headed the company as the CEO.

“He loved his family, hard work and giving back,” says Jud Fisher, John Fisher’s grandson, on the Ball Brothers Foundation website. “One of his philosophies was, as he put it, ‘When something needs to be done, you get it done.’”

Fisher was the first recipient of UT Knoxville’s Torchbearer award, the highest honor given a student. He played basketball, ran track and participated in student government. He earned a master’s degree from Harvard University in 1942 and received honorary doctorate of law degrees from Ball State University, Butler University and DePauw University—all in Indiana—and Indiana University.

He served two Indiana governors as a member of the state’s Commission for Higher Education.

Today, Ball Corporation awards a scholarship in his name to children of active employees.

Fisher died at age 93 in 2009.

Part of the Tennessee Alumnus100 Distinguished Alumni feature.