By Brance Arnold ’10 MA
A passionate belief in education and the mission of providing youth an opportunity to achieve their academic aspirations is what inspires Rick Fink ’88 MA and his wife, Marion, to maintain a deep connection with the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) and play an integral role in its advancement.
Fink, who earned his master’s degree in social gerontology from what was then Incarnate Word College, said his journey to the university was one of chance.
“I was a career Air Force Officer and when I retired I received a job offer at what was then USAA Towers,” said Fink. “Through the orientation process they had an education office and I stopped in and found a brochure for a gerontology program at Incarnate Word, which they no longer offer.”
Fink phoned the number on the brochure and after speaking with Sr. Margaret Rose Palmer, CCVI, began the program. Establishing a top-rated retirement community as the director of USAA Towers, he said his education at UIW helped to facilitate his career success.
“I knew a lot about management but not a lot about dealing with the elderly population,” Fink said. “It was a unique program.”
Two years after graduating he was asked to become a member of the UIW Development Board, on which he has served for over 20 years. He and Marion contribute regularly to UIW’s annual fund at the Associate Level. Fink and his wife, who are from upstate New York, both attended small colleges and said they felt a strong connection to UIW because of the kind of students who attend the university.
“We both attended small colleges, we both lived at home, we were scholarship students, and the first in our families to go to college,” said Fink. “The more we learned about Incarnate Word, the more we learned they had students similar to us.”
Fink became the first executive director of The Forum at Lincoln Heights after leaving USAA Towers, a position he held for 10 years. Though he is now retired, he continues to provide hiring and marketing consulting to fellow alumnus J.B. Gouger ’97 MA, who owns five small assisted living communities in South Texas.
Fink said that when Sr. Kathleen Coughlin, CCVI, first assumed the role of vice president for institutional advancement, she invited the development board members to her office to meet with them. Upon learning Fink had a degree in gerontology, she suggested he serve on the board of directors for The Village at Incarnate Word, where he served two three year terms. While on the board, Fink chaired the construction committee for the expansion of the Dubuis House at the retirement facility.
An Alamo Heights Rotarian, Fink is instrumental in organizing Alamo Heights Night, a popular festival during Fiesta, which funds the rotary’s largest single, non-profit donation to local charitable organizations. The event is now held on UIW’s main campus.
Most recently, Fink and his wife contributed a major gift to UIW’s Fine Arts Campaign to help ensure the building of the Fine Arts Complex, set to open in the fall. The couple said that their contribution to the campaign was based on need.
“That’s what they needed at the time,” explained Marion. “They needed to finish the building. We said, why not. If that’s where you need it, that’s where the funds should go.”
Fink and his wife said their connection to UIW is reinforced by their participation in the development board’s many social activities. In particular, they look forward to interacting with students who often attend these events and sometimes give presentations to the board.
Fink, who is also a retired master gardener and taught vegetable gardening under a state supported program at the Botanical Gardens for almost 15 years, was even asked to visit the UIW Community Vegetable Garden and provide suggestions in growing the garden.
Overall, giving back to students who want to succeed academically toward achieving a fulfilling career is what is most important to Fink and his wife. And now with a third generation including eight grandchildren, who have either earned degrees or are currently pursuing them, the Finks believe education to be critical.
“It’s a top priority,” said Fink. “Every year when the annual campaign comes up, we do not hesitate. It is just something we do. And we are grateful for the fact that we can make those decisions.”