About Senate

Secretaries to Senate

Ralph Burns Fisher

Ralph Burns Fisher was Assistant Registrar of the University of Sydney from 1958 to 1967, Deputy Registrar from 1967 to 1970, Associate Registrar from 1970 to 1972 and, Registrar from 1972 to 1975.

He was appointed Secretary to Senate from 1975 to 1980.


Assistant Registrar: 1958 - 1967
Deputy Registrar: 1967 - 1970
Associate Registrar: 1970 - 1972
Registrar: 1972 - 1975


Ralph Burns Fisher was a New Zealander who was born in Auckland on 9 September 1924. He was educated at Auckland Grammar School and Auckland University College (University of New Zealand). In 1946 he was awarded an MA with First Class Honours in Latin from the latter university and in the following year was appointed Junior Lecturer in Classics in the University of Queensland. He was subsequently appointed Assistant Lecturer, then Lecturer in Classics.

In 1955 Fisher decided to leave the academic world for a time and seek further experience in secondary education. He accepted an appointment as Senior Classics Master at Knox Grammar School. Fisher's stay at the School was short for in 1955 he applied for the position of Graduate Assistant at the University of Sydney. One of his referees was Professor F Schonell who spoke highly of Fisher's work in connection with the Classical Ancient History course for the Diploma of Education in the University of Queensland and his ability as a teacher and administrator.

His career at the University of Sydney

Fisher was appointed Graduate Assistant in the Registrar's Office or, as it was then known, the Department of Administration. At the same time he maintained his association with academic work. He was appointed a part-time lecturer in the Latin Department and later he successfully gained a full-time lecturing appointment. However he soon found that his "first love" was administration and he returned to a Graduate Assistant position.

His administrative skills were soon recognised and in October 1958 he was appointed Assistant Registrar; in 1967 Deputy Registrar and in 1970 Associate Registrar. Two years later he was appointed as the tenth Registrar.


Associate Registrar Ralph Fisher in 1970, photo G3_224_2407, University of Sydney Archives.


Registrar Ralph Fisher in 1973, photo G3_224_1090, University of Sydney Archives.

It was a popular appointment. Throughout the University Fisher was known as a man with a strong commitment to the University: as one who knew him well recalled in 1984:

"He was extremely dedicated to the institution, perhaps too dedicated and perhaps too meticulous, spending many long nights to meet the demands of his office, often working throughout the night, and I mean throughout the night, because of the high standard he set for himself."

He was remembered by those who worked with him as a man of integrity, intelligent, good-humoured with considerable energy and a tremendous capacity for work.

"A more helpful and understanding colleague one could not hope to meet. He went out of his way to encourage and support his staff and never hesitated to assist when looked to for help. I doubt if one would find a more cooperative and helpful associate. Although a very serious person, he was delightful company, always in good humour.

In 1974 Fisher requested that he be relieved of his duties as Registrar an medical grounds. His resignation was accepted with regret by the Senate.

Fisher was appointed to the position of Secretary to the Senate. His health however continued to be a matter of concern and in 1980 he retired officially after a period of recreation and long service leave from September 1979 to December 1980. He looked forward to his retirement especially to devoting more time to his music. At his farewell he said: "I plan to spend a lot of time on my music. I play the organ and want to practise a lot. I am also going to do some gardening, some walking, a lot of reading and other things I've often wanted to do but never seemed to have time to do.


Dr Knight and Ralph Fisher at the farewell to Mr Fisher on 7 September 1979, G3_224_1262_1, University of Sydney Archives.


At Ralph Fisher's farewell on 7 September 1979, from left: Catherine Anderson, Allan Gamble, Stuart Wilson, Walter Forbes, Ralph Fisher, Molly Burns, Roy Whitecross and L Tickle, photo G3_224_1262_2, University of Sydney Archives.

In his retirement Fisher was a frequent visitor to the University and was actively involved on the Chancellor's Committee. He also spent considerable time on his music and in producing choral presentations at major choral festivals and special occasions.

Sadly, like Margaret Telfer, he had only a short period of retirement. He died suddenly on 28 March 1984 at the age of fifty-nine years.

From an article by Ursula Bygott, 1992 University of Sydney Archives 'Record'