Burnell C. “Burney” Fischer
Lafayette, Indiana | Distinguished Ag Alumni: 2003
After a workweek that covers the state and involves a $10 million annual budget, 13 state forests, and as many as a few hundred employees seasonally, Burney Fischer heads to his private retreat. It’s a one-acre site with a one-bedroom cottage on the Tippecanoe River in Carroll County that he bought in 1981.
“The lot is totally treed, with wonderful, huge trees. It’s a great place,” he says. “And I can walk right into the river.”
There, he dons shorts, T-shirt, baseball cap, and a plain tan fishing vest; wades in thigh-high; and casts his pole for small-mouth bass. His goal isn’t filling a bucket—he returns the fish to the water. Instead, the lure for Indiana’s State Forester is the quiet, the time alone each morning and evening when there are no people or canoes on the water. “This is the best part of the river,” he says of his spot below Lake Freeman.
Once a year, he heads for Lake of the Woods in Nestor Falls, Ontario, a place his father took him to every year from the time Burney was 11. There, his repertoire expands to northern pike, walleyes, and muskies. And he’ll keep some for his supper. “I’ve been going there for more than 40 years. It’s a great week,” he says.
“I don’t think of fishing as a competitive sport,” Fischer says. “From June to September, this is the most pleasant way to spend a summer day.”
He doesn’t commune with the fish, but he admits he sometimes talk to the trees. “Trees are the only natural part of the landscape you see when you’re driving the road,” says Fischer, whose favorite is the giant Burr Oak in the White Oak family. “I like trees. They’re the best part of the landscape.”
1969 B.S., Forestry, Purdue University
1971 M.S., Forestry, Purdue University
1974 Ph.D., Forestry, Purdue University
1974-1977 Faculty member, University of Massachusetts - Amherst
1977 Assistant professor and Extension forester, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University
1985 Technology Transfer and Extension Award, Society of American Foresters
1988 Full professor, Purdue University
1990-present State Forester/Director of Division of Forestry, Indiana Department of Natural Resources
1993 Historic Preservation and Archaeology Award to Division of Forestry
1997 Certified Forester, Society of American Foresters
1999 Fellow, Society of American Foresters
“It was the teachers at Purdue who helped make me what I am. They made a difference. The forestry faculty’s good teaching and mentoring established a style that is a part of my everyday work and personal life.”