WHITE BEAR LAKE — State Rep. Peter Fischer, D-Maplewood, was named Century College 2013 Outstanding Alum by the school’s Alumni Association Board of Directors, and will address Century graduates May 17 at Aldrich Arena.
A Maplewood resident and a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives serving his first term, Fischer was the student body president at Lakewood Community College, a forerunner of Century College, in the late 1970s, a time of dramatic social change. It was at Lakewood that Fischer resolved to spend his life helping people make their voices heard.
During a 1979 strike by the two-year college faculty association, Fischer remembers going to the State Capitol with a group of students seeking an end to the standoff.
“We wanted to go back to class, and we also wanted to help our teachers achieve salaries that would help them keep up with double-digit inflation,” Fischer said. “It was a tense situation.”
At one point, Fischer and the other students were told to leave the governor’s reception area. Unwilling to give up their cause, the students moved to the Capitol Rotunda, where they stayed for over a week.
“I remember sleeping on top of the North Star in the Rotunda,” Fischer said. “Teachers would bring us food in the morning and evening. It was a real exercise of peaceful non-violence.”
The three-week strike finally ended with a negotiated settlement, and the students returned to class. Fischer said he learned a big lesson about the power of persistence.
Fischer works as the director of finance and operations for Avenues for Homeless Youth, a nonprofit agency located in North Minneapolis. In the past, he has worked in management at the prestigious Minneapolis Club as well as several private country clubs, making his work history a study in contrasts.
“It’s all about service, from the very privileged to the under-privileged,” he said. “My current job, working with homeless youth, is the most satisfying thing I have ever done in my life. There are heart-breaking stories, but the successes you see are heartwarming. Seeing how people can turn their lives around is truly inspiring.”
Fischer said it is the community college’s ability to help people turn their lives around that makes him such a strong advocate for Century College. “Century offers people hope and opportunity,” said Fischer.
“Education is key for people who want to improve their lives. Teachers, coaches, higher education instructors — they make a difference,” he said.
Born and raised in Maplewood, Fischer graduated from Hill-Murray High School in 1976. He attended Lakewood from 1976 to 1979, and then advanced to St. Thomas College, where he graduated in 1981 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
Fischer joined the Maplewood Human Relations Commission in 1979. In 1993, he joined the Maplewood Parks Commission and served for almost 20 years. He was part of the group that made Maplewood a national leader in the buying of land for open space.
“I learned a lot of patience while working as a volunteer for the City of Maplewood,” he said. “I learned that things can get very frustrating, but it pays to keep calm and hang in there. You have to keep working for fair solutions.”
Fischer and his wife Kristi have three children, Peter, 21, Hannah, 20, and Emily, 18. Fischer represents the new Minnesota House District 43A, which includes Mahtomedi, Birchwood, Willernie, part of White Bear Lake and north Maplewood.
Fischer serves as vice chair of the Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee of the Minnesota Legislature. Other committee assignments include Health and Human Services Finance, Housing Finance and Policy, and Labor, Workplace and Regulated Industries.