By Jayna Morris
Assistant Editor, NKU Magazine
If there’s one thing Patsy Fisk (’80) wants people to remember about her husband, Mike (’79), it’s that he loved music.
Mike developed a love for music during his freshman year of high school, she says. And nothing could stop that love, not even a brain tumor. Despite an incurable glioblastoma diagnosis in the fall of 1994, Mike still headed to school every day to teach music. He continued to direct the Alexandria United Methodist Church choir. And he continued to play his instruments—especially guitar—in the living room with their sons, Ben and Daniel.
But four months later, Mike developed aphasia and became a hemiplegic, losing vision, use of his vocal cords and motor skills on the right side of his body. He attempted chemotherapy, but his quality of life continued to dissipate. In April 1995, eight months after he was diagnosed, Mike died. He and Patsy were married for nearly 25 years at the time of his passing.
“I wish he would have been able to retire from teaching. We both had a passion for it,” she says. “It’s a gift that keeps on giving to the community.”
That’s why she created a scholarship—the Michael Fisk Memorial Scholarship—nine years ago as a way to honor her late husband and their joint love for education. The scholarship awards $1,000 to one education major each year during a student’s clinical experience so students can focus on learning and teaching instead of spending their time at a second job.
Paige Cobble is one of those students. She was maxed out on financial aid, but the scholarship allowed her to complete her last semester and earn a teaching degree in elementary education.
“It made me really happy to see her get the help she needed,” Patsy says. “Groups of people can get together and provide opportunities for young people in someone’s memory. You don’t have to be a wealthy person to start something. It can be small. It’s better than a headstone—it lives on.”
For Patsy, the choice to support students majoring in education was an easy one. You could say it all started in Dry Ridge, Kentucky, where Patsy and Mike grew up together. The high school sweethearts were separated for four years after graduation—he in Richmond and she in Lexington—but it wasn’t long after graduation that the pair reunited, the both of them earning master’s degrees from Northern Kentucky University and returning to their hometown to teach in the Grant County school system.
For the next 25 years, the couple both worked as educators. Mike co-directed the Campbell County High School band and eventually transferred to Reiley Middle School to teach vocal, instrumental and general music. Patsy was an elementary school teacher for most of her career and transitioned to teaching seventh grade math before she became a math educator faculty member—and coordinator of admission practicum and advising—here at NKU for three years.
Although she has since retired from three decades of teaching, Patsy still works with students every single day. For the last 10 years, she’s been an advisor in the College of Education and Human Services’ Advising Center.
And she wouldn’t change a thing.
“My teaching experience enhances what I do. This is my dream job,” Patsy says. “I absolutely love it—the one-on-one relationship that I get to build with young adults. NKU is my final resting place as far as work goes. I want to do this until I retire.”
Patsy has generously offered a $20,000 matching gift challenge. All donations made online or postmarked before midnight on Dec. 31 will be matched dollar-for-dollar until gifts reach a total of $20,000. Please donate today.