Despite her humble beginnings, Beverly (Clinton) Fink ‘56 has chosen to make a difference in the world around her – one life at a time.
Fink, along with her brother, sister, and mother, lived with an aunt and uncle in Garnett, Kansas, for much of her childhood. During that time, her mother taught in several small country schools in the Ottawa area and took classes as often as she could toward earning her degree. But their difficult life left its mark on Fink. “I saw my mother struggle after our father left us,” she said, “and I wanted a [better] way to support myself.”
That determination helped Fink hurdle the obstacles that entered her own life and eventually led her into the same profession she had scorned as a child.
The first obstacle came when her uncle was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Having lived with her aunt and uncle for many years, she had become very close to them.
“He died just a handful of days before I had to take the entrance exams at OU,” said Fink, “and I didn’t do very well. When the faculty found out that I had just lost my uncle a week before, they said they wouldn’t even look at [my scores].” At semester, Fink retested and did well.
At college, she met and married Henry Wayne Fink ’58. While most young, married college couples simply worry about juggling school and married life, the Finks had much more to worry about, as they had become a family of four as soon as they said, “I do.”
The oldest of 10 children, H. Wayne, as he is often called, was given custody of his two teenage brothers when he came to college, and Fink found herself an instant “mom.”
The obstacle didn’t deter her from her goal, however, and she stayed the education course. “Time and again professors and faculty were so supportive,” she said. During the weekends and summers, she worked at Winstead’s Drive-In located at 47th and Main Street in Kansas City, Missouri, to help make ends meet. But with four mouths to feed, money was tight, and when it came time for her final semester, Fink did not have the funds to pay for her schooling.
“Somehow,” she said, “the faculty and staff found out.” A group of them met, and Fink was awarded several unclaimed scholarships so she could graduate. “I had to qualify for each one, of course, but it just speaks well of the kind of people who darken the doors of Ottawa University.”
Ironically, following graduation, Fink began teaching at Garnett High School while Wayne finished his degree. When he went on to seminary in Pennsylvania, she found a teaching job there. Eventually the couple landed in Manhattan, Kansas, where Fink taught until 1985 when Wayne took a pastorate in Lamar, Colorado.
In Lamar, Fink continued to make things happen. When she didn’t know very much about the talented and gifted spectrum of learning, she took it upon herself to become educated. “As teachers, we would often have students who had extra talents, but we didn’t know what to do with them,” she said. So Fink developed and initiated a unique gifted program that included a mentoring component. With limited funds, something all too familiar to her, she helped match students with professionals in the community.
Now back in Manhattan, Fink teaches part time at Manhattan High School as the gifted facilitator and advanced placement coordinator. She also helps care for her husband, who suffered from a brain aneurysm several years ago.
Staying connected with OU throughout her career, Fink recently retired from the Ottawa University Board of Trustees, having served as a member since 1998. She is now serving on the President’s Council.
“You can tell why we have a real affinity for the University and why we want to pass that on to others,” she said – a message they have clearly communicated to their children. When the couple’s son, Dan Fink ’91, and daughter, Jan Fink Call, wanted to celebrate their parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, they did so by establishing the H. Wayne and Beverly Clinton Fink scholarship at Ottawa University.
Beverly Fink is quick to tell you that it’s not about all the recognition or the prestige of giving presentations or holding leadership positions on such boards as OU and the Kansas Association for the Gifted, Talented, and Creative. It’s about the people along the way – making a difference in big and small ways, one life at a time.
“Just this week I helped a student sort through all of his college acceptance letters,” said Fink. And remember those two teenage boys she and Wayne helped raise? One is a retired pastor whose son, Kevin Fink, graduated from The College in 1998. The other retired from a school district in Texas. And Fink’s mother? She graduated from The College six years after Beverly in 1960.
“When I first started teaching, there was an older teacher who asked me if I really love teaching,” said Fink. “While he couldn’t wait to retire, I remember telling him I hope the last day I teach is as exciting as the first.” She’s making sure it is.
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