Tony Cummings loved to hear his grandfather—Max Fisher—tell stories of his time at Ohio State.

He remembers Max describing his arrival on campus from tiny Salem, Ohio: carrying a suitcase, sporting a flannel jacket and wearing boots that made him look like a farmer.

Cummings recalls Max talking about the football scholarship he earned at Ohio State and subsequently lost because of injury. To pay for his education, Max picked up part-time jobs and saved money where he could, like relying on a weekly deal at a local restaurant: 15 cents for a bowl of chili and all the crackers he could eat.

“He taught me that the biggest setbacks—like losing his scholarship—provide the best opportunities to learn and grow,” Cummings said. “There are many roads you can take in life, and as long as you approach them with hard work, integrity and conviction, you will be well-positioned for success.”

Tony Cummings - 2016 Convocation 2
Tony Cummings, the grandson of Max Fisher, talks with a Fisher College of Business student at the 2016 Undergraduate Convocation at The Ohio Union.

Decades later, some of Cummings’ fondest memories of his grandfather are of the times they spent together on campus reminiscing, naturally, over a bowl of chili.

“He would always talk about how special it was for him to share this experience with others,” said Cummings, who delivered the keynote address at this year’s Undergraduate Convocation. “His life and legacy are certainly very much embedded in the DNA of this school. Giving to this school was one of the greatest pleasures and privileges he had.”

Fisher’s impact on Cummings was not unlike the effect he had on the entire Fisher family. He stressed the value of integrity over wealth; that net worth and self-worth were two entirely different measures; and the critical importance of leadership.

“He told us what matters in life is not one particular accomplishment, rather a lifetime of involvement. And to be involved is to lead,” Cummings said. “Fisher College of Business is in the business of growing leaders. Before you can be a leader nationally or internationally, you have to be a leader in your own backyard.

“He always said, you’re only a leader if you always keep looking back to see if others are following you.”

Cummings has incorporated these life lessons into the creation of his own real estate development company, demonstrating an entrepreneurial spirit shared by his grandfather more than half a century ago.

“He was the one person who has influenced me the most in my life,” Cummings said. “What’s most important is the wisdom that Max shared with our family—lessons that have taken a lifetime to learn; lessons that still take on new meaning as I build a life of my own. Within our growing family, we have differing opinions on many issues, but there is no debate about how much Max Fisher has changed each and every one of us. And his life was forever changed by this institution.”

Growing up and learning from the man he affectionately called “Pops,” Cummings was treated to a unique perspective into how Max viewed his connection to the college and the university.

“He did not look at what he did for Ohio State as a gift,” Cummings said. “To him, it was an investment— an investment in education and an investment in people. And all the ingredients are in place—from the faculty to the students—to enable Fisher College of Business to be his most successful investment.”