Remembering Jim Fleischer
On October 9, 2021, Alpha Epsilon Pi’s CEO Jim Fleischer (Kent State, 1993) entered chapter eternal following a heroic three year battle with cancer. Following are some recollections and anecdotes shared with The Lion by some of those who knew Jim best. May Jim’s memory forever be a blessing to his family, friends, Brothers and Alpha Epsilon Pi.
Alison Fleischer (Jim’s wife)
While I was sitting in the hospital with the palliative care specialist last September, he asked me many questions about Jim. One that struck me, even now, seven months later was, “Before he was sick, what were Jim’s hobbies? What did he like to do?” It took me a moment to remember what life was like before Jim got sick three years earlier. Of course, he always loved to play basketball. In fact, no other physical activity would or could stand in the way of Jim Fleischer’s illustrious pick-up game or JCC basketball league career. His dedication and determination were fierce. At that moment with the doctor, I got upset because I was wracking my brain to remember what else Jim really loved to do. Then it hit me. Jim’s hobby. What consumed most of his free time, his enjoyment, energy and his passion. It was also what brought us together. It was Alpha Epsilon Pi. To him, AEPi was not just an undergraduate experience. It was and is the international organization that helps perpetuate the future of Judaism on college campuses and beyond. Jim’s involvement in AEPi was always about the Brotherhood and Jewish mission.
Most Brothers of AEPi’s OFAM (official family) have heard our story. The story of Jim and Ali. I’ll share an abbreviated version. Jim had just graduated from college and started working as a Chapter Consultant for AEPi in January 1994. His first assignment was reorganizing the chapter at Washington University. We met there, became fast friends and kept in touch throughout the spring semester while he traveled for AEPi across the United States and Canada. The week after I graduated that May, we started dating. From the beginning, we both knew how we felt about each other. It was true love. We were engaged by Thanksgiving and got married a year later. We bought a sorority and fraternity sportswear company in New York which evolved into a screen printing and promotional products business. We worked together and had three beautiful and fabulous kids: Ethan, Spencer and Madi. Ethan and Spencer both wore AEPi pledge pins at their brises. Our home was always filled with the kids’ AEPi uncles who came for all our simchas, slept in our guest room and joined us for holidays.
Throughout the first 18 years of our marriage, as we managed life and our company together, Jim was always dedicated and unwavering in his love of our family, his passion for sports and his love and involvement in AEPi. As his wife and partner, I understood that AEPi International Conventions, SBG meetings, chapter visits and conference calls were part of who Jim was. He prioritized them over other commitments. He returned home to Long Island from convention in 2012 and explained to me why he should be the Chief Operating Officer of the Fraternity. I was not surprised. It was a huge ask on his part, but I understood through all the years of being co-owners of a business, that whenever we overcame obstacles in our company, we would discuss that all he ever really wanted to do was to run AEPi. His dream job was to be the Executive Director and CEO. So, we uprooted our family and moved to Indianapolis and were welcomed by AEPi volunteers and staff and the Indianapolis Jewish community with open arms.
When Madi would ask what he did all day for work, Jim would say that he was helping the Jewish people and putting out fires. She once said it looked like dad just talks on the phone with his friends and laughs all the time. He enjoyed every moment of his involvement in AEPi. We have heard from countless people that his impact on them was so great. I’ve been reflecting so much on what a true leader he was. He led by example. He trusted his staff and volunteers and held them accountable. He kept things real. He enjoyed himself immensely. He found humor in the ordinary. He was level-headed and rational. He helped make those around him better. He was the BEST.
Now, my true love is gone and my heart breaks. My three beautiful children are practically grown. I know that Jim’s legacy lives in them and in so many people with whom he worked. I am so proud of the incredible impact that Jim had on AEPi and the Jewish community. I am grateful to all AEPi brothers who continue to celebrate Jim’s life and grieve with us. I am confident that AEPi will continue to advocate for and support Jewish students on campus. I am comforted by the fact that Jim had the unique position of having his dream job; that he was able to turn his hobby and passion into his life’s work.
Madi Fleischer (Jim’s daughter)
I don’t even know where to begin when it comes to my dad. He always knew what to say to make you happy or smile. Without me having to say anything he would always know when I was in a bad mood or dealing with something that needed parental guidance. I still feel his presence every time I close my eyes or make a decision…I know he is there helping me to make the correct one. Even though it has been eight months, I still feel like it was only yesterday when we were dancing and singing in the car every morning on the way to school. I’m so happy we got to make those memories together and that I have those times to look back on.
Brother Ethan Fleischer (Indiana, 2022) (Jim’s son)
Growing up, my dad was always an incredible friend, ally, and role model to me and my siblings. It was only very recently that we realized that he was a friend, ally and role model for his peers as well. Despite the fact he was battling cancer and working full time for the fraternity, somehow my dad always had time for everyone and made everyone feel like they were his only priority. That is part of what made him so special—his capacity to consider other people before himself, even during the most trying times. Thinking about that way in which my dad carried himself and the impact he made on my life and others makes me extremely proud every day to be his son.
Brother Spencer Fleischer (Indiana, 2025) (Jim’s son)
For my entire life I looked up to my dad. I always wanted to emulate exactly what he did and the manner in which he did it. I wanted to play basketball like him, speak like him, carry myself like him and, especially, I wanted to be in Alpha Epsilon Pi just like he was. Last September, I was able to become a Brother of Alpha Epsilon Pi and was lucky enough for my dad to be there to initiate me into his Brotherhood. At the time, he was physically unwell but knew that my initiation was something he needed to be at. I know seeing me get initiated meant the world to him and being able to wear AEPi letters with him in my thoughts means the world to me.
Past Supreme Master Stephen Bernstein (Wayne State, 1969)
I met Jim at an AEPi convention during the 1990s. He was the undergraduate delegate for his Kent State Chapter; and I was a member of the Supreme Board of Governors. Andy Borans and I were asked to select the Best Delegate award recipient. I looked at Andy and said “How about the guy from Kent State? He’s a good guy and did a great job participating in the convention”. Andy looked back at me and said “fine”. This brief conversation was Jim’s initial entry into the “official family”. He went on to travel for the fraternity, where he met Ali, and become CEO of AEPi.
Jim was a devoted family man, and a levelheaded CEO, but my remembrance is that he tried to see the best in everyone; and always retained his boyish good nature. He was a great person, and I feel fortunate that he was my Brother and good friend.
Past Supreme Master Scott Cohon (Wayne State, 1991)
Jim Fleischer…..I can’t help but smile when I think about him. it’s quickly turning to tears, but tears mostly of joy. Jim was supposed to follow me into the Supreme Master’s Chair.
Jim took me aside one day at a SBG meeting and told me he was resigning from the Supreme Board because his new job would have a significant conflict. Of course, hearing that he was coming back to the fraternity to help run the organization as its #2 behind the legendary Andy Borans helped smooth things over. I could not blame him for finding his way to working each day for our beloved AEPi. Working for the fraternity was/is the best job I’ve ever had and loved. We had that conversation many times as well.
Jim turned into a hero of mine when he was diagnosed with cancer and fought so bravely. I cannot imagine what his wife Ali and his kids, Ethan, Spencer and Madi have gone/are going through. So, while I don’t want to be selfish here, I miss tremendously the daily morning talks we would have as he went through the Dunkin Donuts Drive-Thru.
To this day, I continue to purchase Dunkin Brand Coffee but nobody will get me to try that vile Skyline Chili that was another of your favorites…YUCK!
Jim – you left us too early, but your pain is gone and your family and indirect fraternity family love you and miss you so very much. I hope to fight cancer with the dignity and no-nonsense approach that you had. You were the first call I took when you learned of my diagnosis. I will miss you so very much! I love you pal….
Past Supreme Master Mark Schiff (Illinois, 1974)
I hate to even think of Jim in the past tense, because he is always in my thoughts. When I see something that makes me laugh, I am drawn to my phone to text or call him. It’s a hard habit to break. It was easier to quit smoking!
In our almost daily phone calls on our way to work, he in New York or Indianapolis and me in Chicago, we talked about fraternity, our families, Brothers and our many road trips. We used to laugh watching Andy Borans fall asleep on a bus, in a car, in a chair… . Laughing in Miami during SBG meetings and evenings out after those crazy meetings with Brothers disappearing after being overserved. Hysterics in Boston when PSM Jon Pierce named himself Ira Brody to a bunch of strangers with whom we were drinking. Joy at his children’s bar/bat mitzvahs. Celebrating successes, personal and fraternal.
He contributed to our lives in a special way, creating a bond to last more than a lifetime. AEPi was blessed to have such a fine human being in charge. Jim’s devotion to his family (his beautiful wife Ali and his three children, brothers Ethan, Spencer and of course Madi) was legendary. We can all take a lesson from Jim in this regard.
Let’s have a séance at convention this year (and each one thereafter) so we can laugh with Jim!
CEO Rob Derdiger (Colorado, 2007)
Shortly after Jim returned to AEPi staff in 2013, he and I took a road trip to visit the Mizzou chapter. It was a long drive from Indianapolis. He was on the phone working on getting a high holiday greeting out to our alumni. When he hung up the phone, I joked that prepping an email with staff via phone while on the road was not going to go well. About twenty minutes later, the email blast went out to alumni and started with “dear l’name”. The system failed to mail merge the contacts and this message went out to 100,000 alumni. He turned to me and said, “you called it” and we laughed about the ridiculous situation for the next 150 miles. Although we had known each other for years, that was the moment we really clicked.
When Jim became AEPi’s CEO our relationship grew even closer. Jim and I argued with one another a lot. Arguments grew out of our shared passion for the fraternity and the desire to ensure that our points were heard and understood but they almost always ended in laughter because, as Jim would say, “we are in violent agreement.” After a few years of arguing with Jim, I began to realize how special our arguments were. Jim refused to take on my analytical approach and I struggled with his highly relational one. We approached problems and decisions from these very different perspectives yet almost always came to the same conclusion. Jim used to end our phone calls by saying “no surprise we are on the same page.”
In between our arguments (and sometimes during) there were so many opportunities for laughter. We would always find something to laugh about or refer to a silly inside joke. Jim kept me laughing every day and even used humor to defuse tension on our toughest days or on his toughest days battling cancer. I will always miss arguing and laughing with Jim.
Supreme Governor Michael Waitz (DePaul, 2009)
Over 12 years of friendship and I do not know where to begin on my favorite memory of Jim (sometimes referred to as Jimmy, Fun Jim, JimF). Coming on to staff in 2009 it was known that Jim was the cool younger board guy that you would want to become friends with, he was the life of the party telling jokes all night. Jim took me under his wing in 2010 as one September morning he was on the phone with Borans screaming about someone starting to work on the Centennial. This was going on in my office and I accidently volunteered myself and said I can help out. I flew to New York the following week (so we could get a basketball game in too) and started planning the Centennial with Jim and becoming a member of his family, where his kids referred to me as Uncle Waitz. It was a great honor working with Jim on planning the centennial, it became even better in the middle when he came back to AEPi staff.
The highlight of my professional career was the Saturday night banquet at the Centennial when Jim, Jon Pierce, and I were taking it all in. Roles reversed as a year later I left staff and went and joined the board a few years later. Jim was a great friend, Brother, and mentor to many and an even better husband, dad, and relative to so many others. Jim you were the best! Thank you for all that you did to make AEPi where we are today.
Brother Andrew Borans (Florida State, 1980) (CEO-Emeritus of the AEPi Foundation and AEPi)
It’s difficult to write about Jim as it hurts so much and yet I can muster a smile, as well. The hurt is that he’s no longer with us in body. He is terribly missed by absolutely everyone. Reminders of him are everywhere and thankfully that will continue. His effect on our great fraternity for three decades is ever present and a constant source of inspiration.
The smile part is that I often smile as I hear Jim whispering in my ear, giving me great advice. Often there are challenges in life. Those challenges are with family, friends, the fraternity and other organizations we are all involved with in our daily life. Conflicts undoubtedly arise and my auto-response generally is to fight back/engage. Sometimes that works – most of the time it doesn’t and/or makes the conflict even worse. When these situations arise, I hear Jim whispering in my ear “let that pitch go by.” He was so right the vast majority of the time. The fight just isn’t worth it…… just let it go. Again, he was so right. That advice stays with me and always will.
So, thank you Jim for that great advice and the three decades that I and so many others got to spend with you on this Earth.
Love Ya’ Man
Past Supreme Master Richard Stein (Illinois, 1974)
It is difficult to write a memorial to someone who I loved as a dear friend, yet left this world before me and way before his time. I met Jim in Chicago in 1991 when I was being sworn in as Supreme Master. His infectious smile and openly “happy” attitude caught my attention immediately.
Over the past 30 years, our friendship grew into a mutual love and adoration for each other. I watched as he worked as a ELC and then left AEPi to start his own “schmata” business. I can remember crawling on the floor with Ethan as a young child attending his first convention. And, it followed the same with Spencer and Madi.
Jim and Ali were family to Terri and me, along with our children. We viewed them as our “kids” and we shared many life cycle events together. Mandy’s Bat Mitzvah was especially notable. Watching Jim and Ali dancing the night away as a couple who brightened the room with their enthusiasm and love is a memory that cannot leave my mind.
Jim spoke with me about leaving the “schmata” business and coming back to the Fraternity. Andy was really excited to have Jim back on staff, especially now that Andy was CEO. How lucky I was to be a part of that path as Jim was doing what he really loved, AEPi. As time went along, I was asked to help with the executive transition as Andy went to work for the Foundation and Jim was elevated to CEO of the Fraternity. Jim was proud of that and I was so proud of him.
Our friendship grew stronger all the time Jim was employed by the Fraternity. I was happy to share a very small part of Jim’s success. My heart cries for his family. I miss him every day of my life. I often go back to some of the texts and e-mails from Jim to keep his memory alive in my mind and heart. I miss him terribly and will always love him.
Supreme Exchequer Brother Adam Cohen (Georgia, 2006
My relationship with Jim started out focused on fraternity business. Serving on the personnel practices committee of the SBG, it was my job to support Jim on sensitive topics. While Jim’s calling card was unrelenting kindness and a contagious sense of humor, I had a front row seat to see a side of him often overshadowed by his powerful energy and room-filling positivity. Jim was an empathetic leader with a deep sense of right and wrong, and a thoughtful commitment to guiding AEPi to its fullest potential.
Faced with challenging decisions in an often-hostile environment, you experience a depth of one’s character that is often obscured in the normal course of life. It was in these moments that I was inspired by Jim the most and often felt closest to him. His love of family, his great care for others, his drive to leave the world a kinder and safer place– was fuel to ignite the best in all of us. I was blessed to have experienced all of this with Jim and will hopefully be a strong steward of the love and lessons he imparted.
Supreme Sentinel Brother Jeremy Brook (Georgia, 2005)
“All right, my man.”
That was Jim’s standard closing to a conversation. We all do this: “See you later.” “Take it easy.” No one actually expects to see the other person later or for them to take the rest of the day off. But each time I ended a conversation with Jim, I was left with a feeling that when he said, “All right, my man,” he meant it. “All right” because, even when facing whatever daily crisis confronted him, Jim exuded calm. He could laugh when others would panic or rage, and he’d remind us that things were, indeed, “all right.” “My man” because Jim exemplified fraternity, even in his casual, off-hand goodbye. Always our Brothers’ keeper, we were Jim’s men, and he was ours.
Lynsie Morgan (AEPi staff for 16 years)
When I was asked to write about my favorite memory with Jim, I couldn’t think of one. It’s taken me three weeks to put pen to paper. See, I didn’t just have one favorite memory with him. I had eight years of memories.
When Jim came back to the fraternity, he quickly became Jimbo and I was Lynsie Lyns. He knew instantly when I was having a bad day and I knew when he needed a very cold DDP (Diet Dr Pepper). We didn’t have a boss and employee relationship. He was more like my confidant and friend. Our love of Big Brother and teeny bopper pop songs took our friendship to the next level. You can guarantee on any Sunday, Wednesday or Thursday night during the summer we were texting over the drama in the Big Brother house.
We traveled many places together and I pretty much knew what restaurant we should eat at based on his love for garlic bread and Caesar salads. My favorite texts that I received from Jim went something like, “my sons said this word/phrase or Madi is doing a tik tok dance. Can you explain what any of this means?”
I was the person behind the scenes helping Jimbo Fleischer look as cool as possible. If I learned anything from him it was that I should be more careful about giving middle fingers on zooms when you don’t think the person is looking. I could go on and on about all our times together. Thank you, Jim, for all the laughs, some tears, high bar tabs, and so much more.
Supreme Scribe Brother Eric Farbman (Northwestern, 2006
I will never forget the many laughs and nearly daily phone calls Jim and I shared together over the years. No matter how stressful the day was, Jim was always Jim – calm, funny and focused. I had the privilege of traveling to Israel with Jim during his first visit to our ancestral homeland. As a proud Jew, Jim soaked up the culture, the history, the people and obviously the food during our time together in Israel. From the Western Wall to the Dead Sea to Masada, Jim found his unique and personal connections to Israel during our trip. Along the way, of course, Jim connected with our AEPi Brothers from Israel and all over the world, who stopped him on the street to share a moment of Brotherhood. While there are many memories of conclaves, conventions, and times at AEPi Headquarters that I will cherish, our time together in Israel will always be special to me because it was such a special experience for Jim.
Many thanks to everyone – especially Jim’s family — who submitted these articles to help us relive our time with Jim. More remembrances of Jim can be found at https://www.aepi.org/jim-memorial/Go back to cover