Donald Lee Finkel

Donald Lee Finkel

Died September 16, 1999

resident of Olympia, WA, Don died on September 16, 1999 of non- Hodgkins lymphoma. Born in New Rochelle, he prepared for Yale at Mamaroneck High School in Mamaroneck, NY, was a Summa Cum Laude graduate in philosophy and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in 1963.

Don was subsequently awarded a Ph.D. in developmental psychology from Harvard in 1970 and went on to become an assistant professor at the University of Washington. Following a period Don described in our class book and directory for our 25th reunion as being a “quasi-unemployed, educational consultant, disc jockey, engineer and producer at KRAB, a non-commercial radio station,” he joined the faculty at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, a position he held for 23 years. In that same essay, he succinctly concluded “(t)he thing that made all the difference was doing what I knew was right even though I knew it meant losing my job, which it did. Everything fell into place after that.” That choice involved Don’s wish to join the University of Washington’s Experimental Interdisciplinary Department, part time, something out of step with then current departmental orthodoxy; he persisted, lost his position at UW and found satisfaction at The Evergreen State College.

Don was the author of Teaching With Your Mouth Shut, published in 2000 by Heinemann Educational Books, on creative ways to inspire students. His widow Susan says the book offered an alternative vision for provoking reflection and dialogue about teaching and is now in its 17th printing). He also co-authored Educating for Freedom: The Paradox of Pedagogy with William Arney.

Sister Leslie remembers: “Don was my moral compass too. I love what he wrote about doing what he knew was right even though there might be consequences. He was always learning and sharing new things, a teacher from the get go. He had an innate sense of fun and curiosity and shared many ideas around the dinner table with the family. I could talk to him about anything and know that I would get a thoughtful and intelligent response. He was always a kind and stable sibling.”

Don was survived by his wife of 33 years, Susan, formerly Susan Kolker; a daughter, Zoe Finkel, of Los Angeles and three sons, David, Daniel and Benjamin, all of Olympia, WA.

Richard Kaslow remembers: Modest and brilliant – a winning combination.