In Memory: Joseph R. Fink

Dr. Joseph R. Fink, who from 1988-2011 served as Dominican University of California’s eighth president, passed away at his home in Napa on May 2. He was 83. For 23 years, Dr. Fink led Dominican’s transformation from a small college to a university that steadily grew in size, stature, and diversity.

Early in his presidency, Dr. Fink (pictured here acknowledging graduates at Commencement ceremonies in 2011) identified Dominican’s strengths: a values-based education, small class size, support from faculty, and a prime Bay Area location. He then launched programming that drew on these strengths in order to raise Dominican’s profile among students, donors, and community partners.

The physical campus was notably transformed under his leadership. He raised funds to build or renovate more than half the buildings on campus, and the Joseph R. Fink Science Center stands as his legacy. He was a champion of athletics, and believed Dominican could build an exceptional program in the NCAA Division II that reinforced Dominican’s strong academic work.

The diversity of Dominican’s student population was seeded in Dr. Fink’s unstinting efforts to raise funds for scholarships for students who would not otherwise have considered Dominican. In a 2011 interview with the University’s alumni magazine, The Torch, Dr. Fink recalled the accomplishment of which he was most proud: “We worked hard and successfully to respond to the demographic changes taking place in California, raising millions of dollars for financial aid, and providing an opportunity for thousands of students who may never, otherwise, have had a chance to attend a school such as ours.”

Each year the Joseph R. Fink Faculty Achievement Award honors a faculty member’s lifetime achievement and dedication to Dominican. Recipients are recognized as outstanding teachers who have brought distinction to Dominican through research, creative work, service, or leadership.

Dr. Fink served on the boards of a variety of organizations, including The Council of Independent Colleges, The World Affairs Council of Northern California, the San Francisco Ballet, the Marin Symphony, the American Land Conservancy, the North Bay Leadership Council, and the Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco. During the Club’s Centennial year, 2003, he served as President of the Board of Governors and was the Chairman of the Centennial Committee.

Prior to serving as the president of Dominican University of California, Dr. Fink was the president of an independent liberal arts college in Pennsylvania and the president of a public college in New Jersey. He also served as Dean of Arts and Sciences at the City Colleges of Chicago. He began his career at a small liberal arts college as an associate professor of history and assistant to the president.

Dr. Fink earned his Ph.D. in American History from Rutgers University and an A.B. degree in History from Rider University in New Jersey. He was awarded honorary doctorate degrees from Rider University in New Jersey; College Misericordia in Pennsylvania; and Golden Gate University in San Francisco, for his achievements in higher education and community service.

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