University News

Fink Int'l Scholarship

November 30, 2010

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By Julie Murphy, Foundation & Development

Rodney and Bertha Fink, longtime friends of Western Illinois University, recently committed $25,000 to establish the Dr. Rodney & Bertha Fink International Student Scholarship at WIU. Scholarship awards will be made to female students from emerging or developing countries majoring in agriculture or agriculture business.

Rodney's ties to the School of Agriculture go back to 1968 when he joined the faculty as an associate professor. He went on to serve as chair of the department before being named dean of the College of Applied Sciences in 1974. Bertha received her master's degree from Western and served as an instructor of health sciences from 1976 to 1981. Since his retirement in 1993, Rodney has spent 15 years working with projects associated with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and voluntary projects in many countries around the world.

According to Rodney, when he was teaching agriculture in the early 1970s, the department began to see an influx of international students in agriculture, particularly from Africa. In these countries, as well as in other emerging and developing areas, women do 70-80 percent of the farming, yet were (and still are) often not afforded the same scholarship opportunities as their male counterparts, he noted.

"At the same time, women in this country were just beginning to formally study agriculture. It was an interesting time, in many ways. I felt it was important for a student from Illinois to sit next to a student from Africa, and for the young men to consider the young women as equals," he added. "I was trying, back then, to diversify the student body. Bertha and I have been all around the world, and have witnessed the role of women in agriculture economies. We want to address the inequities for these women, and we want to do it here through Western.

"We have put a lot of ourselves into this institution, and have also received a great deal from it. Between Bertha and our four children (three of whom are daughters), our family has earned a total of six degrees from Western," Rodney said. "Our family has done well here, and we hope to help Western continue to do well."

The Finks also have a long history of generosity to the WIU. In addition to each of their professional contributions, the Finks have previously made other significant gifts. In 2008, they donated 77 acres of land to establish the Fink Environmental Studies Field Laboratory and Conservancy and, at the same time, created the Bertha Grieshaber Fink Scholarship in Nursing.

"We are grateful to the Finks, and pleased that they chose to make this commitment during International Education Week. This scholarship strengthens Western's globalization initiatives and assists in recruiting international students," said President Al Goldfarb.

"We are excited about this generous gift from Rodney and Bertha," added Richard Carter, director of the School of Distance Learning, International Studies and Outreach. "The scholarships will be utilized to provide new educational opportunities for international students, who in many cases do not have the same access to higher education as students in this country."

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