Born in Canton, Ohio, Cletus Fisher earned degrees from Kent State University, the University of Iowa, and the Ohio State University. He worked as an assistant professor and administrative assistant in the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology at the University of Iowa before coming to NIU. He came to NIU in 1968 with a desire to create a Department of Communicative Disorders that could stand-alone from the Department of Speech. As a result of his efforts, the Department of Communicative Disorders, one of the largest such programs in the state, is ranked near the top of similar programs in the country. The department offers the only rehabilitation-counseling program in the state with a focus on deafness.