Kenneth C. Fischer

President Emeritus
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Ken Fischer is President Emeritus of the University Musical Society (UMS) of the University of Michigan (U-M), a position he held for 30 years between 1987-2017. UMS, an independent multi-disciplinary performing arts presenter with a long and deep affiliation with U-M, is located on the Ann Arbor campus and offers 60-90 concerts each season, performed in up to nine University and community venues. Since its founding in 1879, UMS has presented top-ranking international artists in dance, theater, and music.

Ken accepted the 2014 National Medal of Arts on behalf of UMS from President Obama at the White House. Under Ken’s leadership UMS greatly expanded and diversified its programming and its audiences; deepened its engagement with the University and southeast Michigan communities; created exemplary partnerships with leading corporations, arts organizations, educational institutions, and community organizations; and received significant grants awarded by the leading foundations in the arts.

Ken has contributed to the performing arts presenting field as a speaker, workshop leader, writer, consultant, panelist, and cultural ambassador under U.S. State Department auspices to many countries. He serves or has served on the boards of many professional organizations and is an Emeritus Trustee of the Interlochen Center for the Arts. Ken has been recognized for his career achievements and service to the field of the performing arts by Association of Performing Arts Professionals, International Society for the Performing Arts, and Chamber Music America. In 2013 he received a Distinguished Alumnus Award from The College of Wooster (OH).  In 2019 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Michigan.

Since retirement from UMS, Ken is teaching Arts Leadership at U-M’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance and has written a book on his career in the arts for publication by the University of Michigan Press in August 2020 titled Everybody In, Nobody Out: Inspiring Community at Michigan’s University Musical Society.

Before UMS Ken was a higher education association executive and management consultant in Washington, DC, specializing in the design and management of meetings, seminars, and conferences.  He is the author of Little Big Winners, 77 Ideas for a Better Conference. Ken has degrees from The College of Wooster (religion) and University of Michigan (the study of higher education).  He is married to professional flutist Penny Peterson Fischer whom he met at Interlochen Arts Camp when both were teens.   Their son Matt, who is Vice President of Apple overseeing the App Store, lives with his wife Renee and two sons in the San Francisco Bay Area.