Emeritus Prof. Dr. DIETRICH FISCHER (1941 – 2015)
IN FOCUS, 26 Oct 2015
Prof. Dietrich Fischer’s favourite quotes:
“Peace is not everything, but without peace, everything is nothing.”
— Willy Brandt
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
— Margaret Mead
Guten Nacht, mein am besten Lehrer
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not for the swift or the battle for the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favour to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all. Moreover, no man knows when his hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net or birds are taken in a snare, so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.” Ecclesiastes 9:10-12
Announcement of obituaries in the popular Professor Johan Galtung’s column of 19 October 2015 edition of the online Transcend Media Service, with the caption: “Professor Dietrich Fischer, Ph.D., Co-Founder of TRANSCEND, Passed Away Today, 18 October 2015”, erased the outright disbelief which greeted the rude shock that took toll of me when informed about the sudden departure of Professor Dietrich Fischer.
I had begun to know Professor Fischer even before I ever met him, as a very cultured, humble and modest individual. My very first encounter with Professor Dietrich Fischer, now of blessed memory, was quite fascinating. That first impression of his modest and pleasant person so endeared him to me, that I desired an intellectual tutelage under him; a dream that was to fatefully materialize only shortly afterwards at the European University Centre for Peace Studies (EPU), Stadtschlaining in Burgenland region of Austria. Fatefully, as we prepared for resumption then, I was bereaved of my own mother, just barely two weeks before going to Burgenland from Vienna. Having even never met Dietrich (as he pointedly preferred to simply be addressed while with us his students at EPU) upon noting, from the resumption correspondence exchanges between me and EPU’s Uschi, about my human loss, he swiftly mailed across a condolence message to me as this:
Dietrich Fischer wrote:
I am very sorry to hear about the passing on of your dear mother.
I lost my mom last year and share your grief. Your mom must have
been a wonderful person to raise a peace-loving person like you.
Looking forward to seeing you at EPU soon,
Prof. Dr. Dietrich Fischer
European University Center for Peace Studies (EPU)
Haus International, Kirchenplatz 8
A-7461 Stadtschlaining, Austria
Tel +43-3355-20726, Fax +43-3355-2666, mobile +43-664-511-1889
email@example.com, www.aspr.ac.at, www.transcend.org”
This earlier contact blossomed into, and germinated, exceptional future benevolence for me. We had no premonition; neither had he an instinct, nor did any of us his numerous EPU products could fathom that his eternal departure from his Basel, Switzerland place of abode, Sunday – 18 October 2015, was invariably his final from his earthly sojourn to eternity. During his lifetime, he was widely acknowledged as a forthright, principled and highly disciplined individual, with exceptional intellect and civility.
Those of us whom he groomed, at EPU and other numerous institutions, will eternally cherish appreciated that he embraced us all as his own friends. He worked assiduously to become a popular communicator. Apart from his professional calling, Dietrich was also known to many as a philanthropist. His generosity included financial, food and other gifts to numerous students and people. As T. S Eliot said, ‘death can kill good people, but poor death can never kill their good work on earth’, Dietrich Fischer’s work still speaks for him even after death. As a personal testimony, Dietrich supported my EPU tuition fees with 750euro for the 2006 spring semester and claimed the assistance as having been generated from an anonymous source. When I had to frontally confront a judicial issue in Vienna, Austria, Dietrich mobilized and conveyed my old EPU colleagues to lend moral encouragement and support to me at Landesgerrischt Wien, 12 June 2006, once kindly contacted and informed by Dr. Michael Plitzer (an Austrian humane ideologist), who had unexpectedly paid me a surprise visit then.
Thereafter, upon contacting him, he obliged a resource that facilitated my natural resolve to fight a cause (at both the European regional ECHR and UNHCHR global fundamental human rights facilities) to win the misanthropic injustice cum justice miscarriage that had confronted me, which eventually paved my soft-landing. I met with him again for a pay-back, 21 April 2008, which quite painfully now turned the very last time of my contact with him.
From here, I had even left for Abuja in Nigeria, Sunday, 18 October 2015, to submit my visa request and GCSP invitation at the Switzerland diplomatic post, with no iota of inkling that Dietrich’s transition was already setting in as I journeyed, even as discussed him with my Abuja childhood friend and host. In consequence, as I prepare to participate in the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) specialist intellectual event: ‘Building a national policy for countering violence extremism’ and began to contemplate on what would be befitting to take along as irresistible souvenirs from here in Africa to give as mere token to the great mind and man that Dietrich was made of, alas, I now totally incapacitated. I therefore remain unable to repay his nicety in any commensurate proportion; the agony of the mind which I may definitely continue to live with.
Dietrich accommodated and funded some indigent foreign students whom I knew in institutions of higher learning in parts of Europe and north America, and he ensured he also invited us (all EPU students) to table randomly at various times. His profound wisdom likewise informed his golden silence that scuttled unwarranted mundane and phantom conspiracy which orchestrated and plotted treachery against him and needlessly decried him in the wake even before his tenure ended at EPU and then he, alongside his age-long friend, Professor Johan Galtung (who he greatly respected) and others, started the World Peace Academy in Basel, Switzerland.
Little wonder too that EPU students’ house vehemently rose in solidarity of him and stoutly fought against that xenophobic tendency, even as Professor Galtung (a founder and father of Peace and Conflict Studies) determined to sever his academic service from EPU because of the effrontery against Dietrich, but a deserved intention which Dietrich Fischer, though, abated. Hence, trained as an expert in his chosen field, he had highly successful careers, both in computer science and his later love, peace and conflict studies; going by the numerous landmark works he had to his credit, in Europe, America and elsewhere.
Colonel Jonah Bawa (Rtd.), a 2005 EPU product and of Fischer school, was (as a Director, Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution in The Presidency, Abuja – Nigeria), itching to facilitate an invitation for Dietrich to bring his expertise to Nigeria, as a clear demonstration of how his reputation earned him the lead role in most of other people’s minds; an arrangement that now has to rest. Adopted children who have, today, grown into adulthood and graduated from universities into their chosen professions, with promising careers, will definitely remain indebted to Dietrich’s own coordinated effort and expertise. As a genius in conflict settlement/management and peacemaking, his fantastic mind, consistency, perceptive analysis, sheer brainpower and courage made him a reference point in peace and conflict studies.
Even at age 74, his passage is so excruciatingly painful that it has brought, and will inevitably bring, uncontrollable tears to many faces; beyond those of his immediate household and family, including the faces of his innumerable students and admirers here, there and everywhere, his contemporaries, friends, acquaintances, NGOs, his beneficiaries, as well as those in both his immediate and extended neighbourhoods; including those he could have never known. With his home-call to glory and ultimate departure to his Creator, another irreplaceable icon and a rare breed is gone.
Prof. Dr. DIETRICH FISCHER, born 1941 in Münsingen, Switzerland, Dietrich Fischer, born in Switzerland, was a Professor and Academic Director at the European University Center for Peace Studies, Burg Schlaining, Austria, from 2003 to 2009. He was a former MacArthur Fellow in International Peace and Security at Princeton University and member of TRANSCEND, an international peace and development network. Until his recent earthly departure, he was Academic Director of the World Peace Academy in Basel, Switzerland. He was a founding member and part of the faculty of the Galtung Institut for Peace Theory and Practice in Grenzach-Wyhlen, Germany.
He was a Board Member of the TRANSCEND Peace University and Director of the TRANSCEND University Press. He got his Ph.D. in Computer Science from New York University in 1976 and his MA in 1971. In 1968, he obtained a Licentiate in Mathematics from the University of Bern, Switzerland. From 1976-86 he taught economics at New York University. From 1986‑88 he was a MacArthur Fellow in International Peace and Security Studies at Princeton University. From 1988-2003 he taught computer science at Pace University, New York.
He was author of Preventing War in the Nuclear Age (1984) and Nonmilitary Aspects of Security: A Systems Approach (1993) and co‑author of Warfare and Welfare: Integrating Security Policy into Socio‑Economic Policy (with Nobel Laureate Jan Tinbergen, 1987), Winning Peace: Strategies and Ethics for a Nuclear‑Free World (with Wilhelm Nolte and Jan Oberg, 1989), Conditions of Peace: An Inquiry (with Grace Boggs, et al., 1991), and Peaceful Conflict Transformation and Nonviolent Approaches to Security (with Johan Galtung, 1999), as well as many articles on peace and development. He had been a consultant to various United Nations agencies on issues of disarmament and development.
When Dietrich died, Switzerland, Austria, USA and, indeed, the whole of Europe and rest of the world at large lost its most valued and accomplished highly respected “master storyteller,” which he was widely known and described as by the army of his innumerable admirers across the universe. He will be sorely missed for his grace and humility. His death does shrinks further the pool of that generation of men who wielded academic excellence largely to stay in the hearts of their people.
No one, however, doubted Dietrich’s commitment to all people. Professor Fischer was an international man, whose records and antecedents are clear in the history of wherever his footprints had touched. Papa Dietrich was very kind-hearted. He was like a father to not only my humble self, but likewise to many people and he was larger than life. The death of papa Dietrich will remain a heavy blow to me. I will miss his advice, unflinching support and confidential report/reference letter, even at the shortest notice or contact and without grudging; if I had problems, he would advise me on what to do.
Of course, not only me, but the larger army of international scholars who might have passed through him (including his colleagues), have lost another great, honest and dedicated statesman of all standards. He was an accomplished academic, who served humanity well and never lost touch with the people. His example of humility and prudence in the academia is one the world at large needs the most now. Papa Dietrich will be greatly missed. His death has further depleted the rank of true academic mentors and the academic world is the poorer for it. There he goes to the Maker and to the ancestors, one of the finest souls in the academic circles.
Oh oooooo, he was a great advocate of high work ethics; Soft spoken but tenacious. I hope the younger ones would emulate the enviable virtues of Dietrich Fischer, who was an epitome of hard work, professionalism, piety and dedication to both his home country and the whole world his fatherland. He was totally dedicated to the ethos of peace and conflict studies. He lived, he loved, he laughed, and he served tirelessly to uphold the academia and its enviable heritage. His was a life worthy of emulation; he impacted positively and permanently on our lives. We accept it was God’s time for him. We miss his elegant physical presence. But God gave him to us as an icon whose love, and warmth, and laughter and wisdom, and intellect, and courage we shall cherish for always.
We thank God for his life. We will all miss him. Good night, Dietrich! Rest in Peace, Beloved One, Amen!
Auf wieder sehen in unsere traum sich treffen mit. Guten nacht, und gut schlaefen sie, unsere am besten Lehrer Dietrich von Münsingen!
Farewell Dietrich Fischer, emeritus university professor of note!!
Fondly remembered always and forever by us all!!!
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 26 Oct 2015.
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