Kenneth Nelson Fishell, 87, of Shelburne, passed away on Thursday July 18, 2019 at the McClure-Miller Respite Housesurrounded by the love of his family and holding his daughter’s hand.He was born on the family farm in Rush, NY, the son of Nelson and Edna Fishell. Ken described himself as “a child of the Depression” and he learned at a young age that everything had value. While this included material objects, it especially included connections he made with people throughout his life.
Ken’s education started in a one room schoolhouse five miles from the family farm. He graduated from high school in Rush, NY at the age of 15 and went on to attend SUNY Brockport and the University of Rochester, ultimately earning his Ed.D in Education. Ken was a lifelong learner and loved his chosen field of Education. During the early part of his career he was an elementary school teacher in Newark, New York. Later he became principal at age 26 of a new suburban elementary school in Henrietta, New York. His first job in higher education was at the University of Rochester, where he worked on the Project I Master of Arts in Teaching Program and the Teacher Center sites funded by the Ford Foundation. He then moved on to become Associate Professor of Education at Syracuse University. While at Syracuse University he helped to develop the Department of Educational Technology. In the early 1970’s Ken accepted a position as Professor of Education and Associate Dean of the College of Education and Social Services at the University of Vermont. During his tenure at UVM, he held a variety of positions, including Interim Dean of CESS (when his mentor, Dr. Dean Corrigan left), Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs, and Senior Associate Vice President under President Lattie Coor’s leadership.
Ken’s ultimate love was for his students and colleagues, and he valued them above all else. He served as major professor for dozens of doctoral students, all of whom adored him for his gentle and caring way. He would always make time for them, no matter the hour. Throughout his career his style was to stay in the background, causing good things to happen but never being out front. To that end, he enjoyed being part of the Vermont School Development Institute as well as other projects that helped students, teachers and community members solve problems and improve their schools.
Ken was a passionate sports fan. His favorite sports were baseball and basketball. He never missed a game when his beloved Celtics were playing. He coached basketball during his early teaching career in Lyons, NY. One of his young players was Jim Boeheim, present coach of Syracuse University’s basketball team. After basketball season ended spring would bring the anticipation of smelling the freshly cut grass and hearing the crack of the bat and the ball sailing toward the wall. Ken could, according to his friends, hit a baseball farther than anyone in Monroe County, NY. He played minor league ball and likely would have gone a lot further were it not for his illness at a young age when he was riddled with an infection and a week-long high fever. He was one of the first in the area to receive the new drug, Penicillin that was used by the military in World War II which relieved the infection and fever. A number of surgeries eventually helped him recover. He carried his love of baseball to the University of Vermont where he helped to reinstate the varsity baseball team.
Growing up on the family farm pushed Ken to develop the skills of self-sufficiency. From woodworking; to stone work; to picture framing; to building sets for the Shelburne Players, he enjoyed working with his hands as well as helping others with their projects. Ken truly loved helping others.
During Christmas break in 1962, Ken traveled to Germany to marry his former student, Linda Stanwix, who was teaching in Bremerhaven. He and Linda were married 57 years. Together they raised three children. He never missed a chance to express his pride in his children and grandchildren.
Ken’s kind gentle spirit will be missed by many, especially his wife and best friend Linda, their daughter Sandra McAllister and her husband, Scott, his sons, Bill and David, his grandchildren Will and Kate McAllister and Annie and Erin Fishell, his brother Bob and several nieces and nephews.
A celebration of Ken’s life will be held at a future date.
The family would like to extend their gratitude to Dr. Frank Landry, his friends Ken Hood and Juefei Wang as well as everyone at Vermont Respite House for their loving care and support during the last few days of his life.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the following organizations that Ken held close to his heart: Burlington Boys and Girls Club Early Promise education program, 62 Oak St., Burlington, VT; University of Vermont Foundation for APEX teacher scholarships, 411 Main St., Burlington, VT 05401; Shelburne Farms, 1611 Harbor Road, Shelburne, VT 05482; McClure-Miller Respite House, 1110 Prim Road, Colchester, VT05446