For the last six and a half years, I walked by this office. If the door was open, there was always a gray haired man with legendary eyebrows sitting in there, red pen in hand. Saving journalism, one student at a time.

He was a colleague unmatched. He was a mentor who shepherded me through my first years here. He was a benefactor who, through his endowed professorship, helped me build my program into what it now is.

And, most importantly, he was a friend. He was loyal and committed and passionate.

We have lost Conrad Fink to cancer. I got the call in the morning, he was gone. I had dinner with him and his wife a week before, just prior to his last hospital admission. His sense of humor intact, his focus as intense as ever. He apologized for being five minutes late (his wife said it was the first time ever), he’d been at the hospital and a blood transfusion had taken longer than anticipated.

I sat around for a while, lost in thoughts and memories, yet not in regret. I was lucky enough to know him, to learn from him. To be inspired by him.

But Fink was not one to dwell on what was lost, so I went about my day. Meetings and shuffling people about, driving near my building. I turned around, I went in on a Saturday.

And I stood, in the hall I walk daily, and I stared at this sign. His name, in simple type. Knowing that he will never again be on the other side of that threshold. Knowing that no more students will pick up their papers carefully, conscious of the dampness of the red ink on them.

Knowing that I have lost a colleague. A mentor. A friend.

His students, ranging back nearly 30 years, are pouring their memories out on his Facebook page. I try not to look, but I do. They all have stories.

Our department will go on, of course. And we’ll be sad for a while, missing that knock and question, “Heading over for a sandwich, join me, pal?” That reminder that journalism matters.

But for those of us who had time with him, as colleague or student, we have an obligation to those who didn’t get their chance. Pay it forward. What he taught you was not his and it is not yours – share it.


  1. I knew when I saw the simple -30- on your Facebook page that someone had died. After reading this, I now know who. Although I did not know Conrad Fink, I wish I would have. Your very touching post on this page about your friend and mentor reminds me why journalism matters and how important those special people are who choose to pass along their wisdom to the next generation of journalists.
    My condolences to you Mark.

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