Mary Cecilia Fisher Goucher, 1850-1902
Benefactor and Wife of Dr. John F. Goucher, the College's founder and second president
Mary Fisher Hall
Mary Cecilia Fisher Goucher, 1850-1902
Mary Cecilia Fisher was born March 22, 1850 in Cecil County Maryland. She grew up on the family estate of Alto Dale near Pikesville in Baltimore County, where her father practiced medicine. One of her uncles was also a well known Baltimore physician and another uncle was a successful merchant in Baltimore City. Being a woman, her educational opportunities were limited; however, her father believed in education for women, and he arranged for her as much education as was possible at that time. Mary never attended college, yet she was well educated and also fluent in French. In 1868, she joined the Methodist Episcopal Church and became very involved in the activities and programs of the Church. That same year, she met the young minister Dr. John Franklin Goucher. After an eight year courtship, they were married on December 24, 1877. A happy couple, the Gouchers had five children, though, only three survived to adulthood.
Together with John, Mary shared a strong belief in higher education for women and world mission programs. She worked tirelessly on many causes and funded many projects. The Gouchers aided in founding what is today Morgan State University, a historically black college located in Baltimore, Maryland. The Gouchers also helped found several schools throughout Asia, and Mary Goucher was particularly interested in India where she helped found several girls schools. Wealthy from the inheritance of considerable fortunes from her father and uncles, the Gouchers were able to fund all of these projects and also to travel extensively throughout the world.
In spite of their wealth, the Gouchers lived simply and were careful stewards of their financial activities. Mary Goucher was a active member of several community organizations, even serving as vice president of the Association for the Extension of University Education for Women. In the early 1880s, the Baltimore Conference of Methodist Episcopal Church desired to start a womens college. Dr. Goucher, along with Dr. Van Meter, became the chief founder of the Woman's College of Baltimore, later Goucher College. The Gouchers gave the initial land for the College campus in 1884, and in 1887 they gave another $100,000 on the condition that it be matched by other benefactors, to complete the construction of the first college building. The money was given in memorial to their daughter Eleanor who had died as a child, and as a result, the building was named Goucher Hall and built in the shape of an E. The Gouchers were the largest benefactors to the College in the early years of the College; in total they gave over $500,000 to Goucher College, and Dr. Goucher also left their St. Paul Street home to the College.
When her husband became the second president of the College, serving from 1891 to 1908, Mary Cecilia became an integral part of College life. Devoted to the students, she knew all of their names and tried her best to help everyone adjust to college life and achieve their potential. Serving as a surrogate mother, she took sick students to her house to care for them, invited students for tea, and had students unable to travel home for holidays stay with the Gouchers. In 1892, Mary and John initiated Alto Dale Day, when they would have the entire faculty and senior class come to their county estate of Alto Dale for a day of food and activities. The Gouchers also invited the senior class to their City home on St. Paul Street at Christmas time to decorate the tree and sing carols. The students loved Mary Fisher Goucher, and she loved them. Her greatest service was to the Woman's College of Baltimore.
Mary Goucher on the grounds of Alto Dale, the Goucher's country estate in Baltimore County, MD
In 1942, the College, by this point renamed Goucher College, in honor of John and Mary Goucher, had built a new dormitory on the Towson campus. Being a dormitory, the College wanted to name it after an important woman in the early history of the College. Mary Cecilia Fisher Goucher was unanimously chosen. The naming committee stated the following reasons for selecting Mary Goucher: "the generous monetary gifts made by Dr. and Mrs. Goucher came chiefly from the family wealth of Mrs. Goucher" and "the impact of her personality on the college was very deep." In order to limit confusion between the new building and the College and to properly honor Mary individually, her maiden name, Mary Fisher, was used.
The decision to name the first Towson building Mary Fisher Hall was popularly received by the College community, especially the older alumnae who had personally known Mary Goucher.