Scholarship Continues Mission of Late Cal Poly Professor Gene Fisher, Championing Diversity in Computer Science 

Closeup of Gene and Lori Fisher
Inspired by Professor Gene Fisher’s profound dedication to computer science, Lori Fisher established a scholarship endowment fund aimed at fostering diversity within the field. The fund will offer tuition assistance to students for generations to come.

A former computer science professor’s dedication to student success in math and sciences will endure through a scholarship established by his wife to honor his legacy.  

Gene Fisher was a computer science professor at Cal Poly from 1990 to 2016, inspiring hundreds of students to excel in the dynamic and cutting-edge field of technology. The year following his retirement, he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Despite a valiant two-year battle, he died on Dec. 1, 2019.  

“He really loved his students, and he loved what he did,” said his wife, Lori, who also taught computer science at Cal Poly in 1991 and 2003. “He worked hard, and he expected a lot from his students.” 

Motivated by Gene’s deep commitment to his field, Lori created a scholarship endowment fund to promote diversity within the computer science community, providing tuition assistance for students in perpetuity.  

The Gene and Lori Fisher Memorial Scholarship is available to students across all majors within the College of Engineering, with a preference for those studying computer science or software engineering. Eligible applicants must be members of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), Women involved in Software & Hardware (WISH) or similar organizations that support diversity in engineering and must also demonstrate financial need.  

Closeup of Professor Gene Fisher
Gene Fisher was a computer science professor at Cal Poly from 1990 to 2016, inspiring hundreds of students to excel in the dynamic and cutting-edge field of technology. 

“I knew I wanted to do something for Gene,” Lori said. His passion was encouraging women in computer science, and I thought, ‘What better way to honor him than with this scholarship?’” 


Lori and Gene met at UC Davis, where Lori was pursuing her master’s degree in computer science and Gene was a faculty in the department, having previously graduated from UC Irvine.  

“I took his class and fell in love,” said Lori, joking that she left with a “Mrs. Degree” as well.  

The pair married in 1988 and began searching for universities where they could both teach. Cal Poly was their top choice, and they were thrilled when they both secured positions there.  

Lori taught for a year before founding her own software company. She returned to teaching for another stint, and then transitioned to selling homes as a real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway.  

“Teaching was my favorite profession, period,” she said.  

One birthday while teaching at Cal Poly, Lori noticed her students staring out the door in disbelief at a man dressed in a gorilla suit. It was Gene, coming to deliver flowers – a memory that still brings her joy.  

In addition to his enthusiasm for teaching, Gene loved great local wines, cooking, the couple’s dogs, traveling in their motorhome and working with his hands. He even designed and built their home in Arroyo Grande, a place Lori continues to enjoy every day. 

“The day he passed, a hawk buzzed our property,” she recalled. “Whenever I see a hawk, I know it’s him.”  


Over the years, Gene and Lori were actively involved in programs aimed at encouraging underrepresented students to pursue degrees in math and sciences. This included helping with a conference at Cuesta College that introduced preteen girls to career opportunities in math and science.  

Lori firmly believes that everyone has the capacity to excel in math.  

Lori and Gene Fisher pose with their dogs
Lori Fisher and her late husband Gene, who both taught computer science at Cal Poly, shared a deep affection for their dogs and their Arroyo Grande home, which Gene designed and built.

She once heard Rosie O’Donnell – a television host and comedian – express her dislike for math to a young audience. Compelled to act, Lori reached out. “I have never written to anyone like that before,” she said, “but I wrote to her and said, ‘Please, don’t ever say that again.’” 

Lori explained that when a girl admits to hating math, it becomes an excuse to avoid trying harder. She emphasizes the importance of perseverance: “Just stick with it a little longer, and you will get it.”  

That principle was exemplified when a friend told Lori she couldn’t solve word problems. “Well, life is a big word problem!” Lori responded. After receiving some coaching, the friend advanced to tutoring physics at Hancock College.  

Math provides the foundational building blocks for any STEM career, including computer science, which was the connection point between Gene and Lori. Driven by their shared passion, Lori is committed to sustaining their joint mission through the scholarship, aiming to nurture the next generation of computer scientists.  

“I miss Gene every day, but I know he’s looking out for me,” she said. “And I know how much he would have loved this.”  

By Emily Slater 

About the Noyce School of Applied Computing

The Noyce School of Applied Computing is home to the first interdisciplinary school of its kind at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo thanks to a transformative $60 million gift from the Robert N. Noyce Trust. 

Housed within the College of Engineering, The Noyce School of Applied Computing combines three departments — Electrical Engineering, Computer Science and Software Engineering, and Computer Engineering — with Statistics joining as an affiliate, paving the way for students and faculty using computer principles, concepts and technologies to address real-world problems.