Vassar mourns Howard Fink

Adjunct Instructor of Hispanic Studies Professor Howard Fink came to Vassar from Marist in 2012, and he quickly immersed himself into Hispanic Studies at Vassar. He was most likely one of the first professors a Hispanic Studies student might encounter—almost a gateway into a love of the language—as he taught, primarily, Elementary Spanish. On Saturday, Jan. 26, he passed away at his home after battling a heart attack, a coma and, ultimately, a stroke.

As a professor in the Hispanic Studies Department, Fink honed a fervent passion for Spanish language, literature and culture, and he spread this passion to those who knew him. His spouse of 45 years, Richard Harr, wrote in an email correspondence, “He was so moved by his study abroad year in Spain, in 1968, that he has continued his relationship with the family in Seville.” Professor of Hispanic Studies Andrew Bush further commented on Fink’s fondness of Spain. “His love of the Spain and the Spanish language was profound,” he wrote in an email. “He was always so happy to go to class and share his enthusiasm with his students.”

Fink’s love for Spanish culture extended outside academia. Professor and Chair of Hispanic Studies on the Randolph Distinguished Professor Chair Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert reminisced on some of her more personal moments with Fink. “Some of my best memories of Howard revolved around good food, a nice glass of wine, and opera,”she wrote. “There was a beautiful afternoon in Madrid where we sat over wine and Tapas in a cozy bar on Cava Baja and he told me countless stories about his trips to the opera—and a recent trip to NYC for the new production of Carmen to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Lovely occasions that I thought we would have a chance to repeat many times.”

His colleagues and students also remember his passion for teaching and acknowledge the impact his time at Vassar, although relatively short, has had on them. Professor of Hispanic Studies Eva Woods Peiró wrote, “I will always remember Howard for his wonderful sense of humor, his love for his students, and the support and friendship that he so generously gave. He was a model of inclusivity and empathy.”

Adya Goyal ’19, a former student of Fink, reflected these sentiments. “I really appreciated how much he cared about his students,” she said. “He especially checked in on me one time via email when he thought that I was upset in his class. I will really miss his quirky and lively presence around.”

Matthew Au ’19, who knew Fink while working both as a drill instructor and later as a Chicago Hall Office Assistant, said, “I will miss his remarkable zest for life, his incomparable passion for opera, and his love of gossip; and, I suppose, I will never again hear his signature ‘Adios, chicos.’”

Throughout his time at Vassar, Fink was a teacher, colleague, coworker, boss and more. His relationships with those who knew him make clear he was a professor devoted to the Spanish language and those with whom he shared it.

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