Thomas Edison State University mourns the loss of Dr. Arnold Fletcher, the institution’s first vice president, who passed away at his home at White Horse Village in Newtown Square, Pa., on June 12. He was 97.
Dr. Fletcher devoted his life to family, music and higher education. He grew up in Upper Darby, Pa., and was a teenage piano prodigy who studied with Olga Samaroff, a concert pianist and wife of the conductor, Leopold Stokowski. Dr. Fletcher earned music degrees from Temple University and a doctorate in education from the University of Pennsylvania.
He was a World War II Army veteran who served with the 11th Armored Division under Gen. George Patton. He received a Bronze Star for his duty during the Battle of the Bulge and took part in the liberation of the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp near Linz, Austria.
In 1946, Dr. Fletcher joined the music faculty of West Chester State Teachers College, where he served as professor of music and dean of Academic Affairs. Following his tenure at West Chester State, Dr. Fletcher served briefly as president of the American College of Monaco before joining Thomas Edison State University, where he played an instrumental role developing and leading the institution's academic enterprise.
Under his leadership, the University developed its first degree programs, appointed its first Academic Council, created both the Thomas Edison College Exam Program (TECEP®) and the school’s first independent study course and became a pioneer in prior learning assessment.
“That was the beginning of the period to start serving the adult learner. We were starting something at that point, and I think we were fairly successful at it,” he said in a 2013 interview with the University. “I was willing to jump into something that was new, and it would give us a chance to try out new things. Some would work. Some wouldn’t. Many of them did. Some became permanent. And by setting a beginning for it, we achieved a background basis for it to continue in the future.”
Dr. Fletcher also played a key role in helping the University earn its first full accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and served as acting president of the University on two separate occasions in 1978 and 1982 when the institution was transitioning between presidents. He stepped down from his role as vice president at the University in 1983.
William J. Seaton, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs at Thomas Edison State University, worked closely with Dr. Fletcher and, under his direction, created a strategy to leverage technology to expand the University’s educational program. That work led to the establishment of the Center for Learning and Telecommunications, forerunner to the Center for Directed Independent Adult Learning and the Center for Learning and Technology at the University.
“We owe much to Arnold Fletcher because he provided leadership at a critical time in our history and had a vision for the institution,” said Seaton. “His work helped create the foundation of our College’s academic program opening doors for adult learners and helping to reshape the entire higher education landscape. Arnold was a Renaissance man whose legacy is firmly rooted in the foundations of the University.”
In his honor, the University established the Arnold Fletcher Award to recognize Thomas Edison State University baccalaureate degree graduates who earned at least 90 credits using one of the innovative, nontraditional learning methods recognized by the institution.
Dr. Fletcher continued to perform music throughout his career and into his retirement. He served on the White Horse Village president’s council, founded the community’s Performing Arts Program and gave numerous piano recitals. He was a lifelong member of Birmingham Friends Meeting in West Chester, Pa.
Dr. Fletcher was preceded in death by his first wife, Toni; and is survived by his second wife, Mary Girling Fletcher, of Newtown Square, Pa.; his daughter, Patrice Fletcher, of Chicago; his son, Kenneth Fletcher, of Independence, Ore.; and a niece, Dee Krauss, of Huntington Beach, Calif.
Funeral services are scheduled to take place on Sat., Aug. 15 at 10 a.m. at Birmingham Friends Meeting, 1245 South Birmingham Road in West Chester, Pa.