To the Editor:
Since a scheduling issue prevented me from speaking at Professor Fineberg’s retirement reception on Friday, May 12, I thought I might summarize my planned remarks through this venue instead.
Although my life and my career have not exactly turned out the way I envisioned they would when I enrolled at Knox, I can say with perfect honesty that I wouldn’t be where – or who – I am today if it hadn’t been for Steve Fineberg. Even though I’d taken enough foreign language credits in high school to satisfy the college’s language requirement, I had long wanted to learn Greek, and happily signed up for Greek 101 my first term. Four years later, I had both a chemistry and a classics degree to my credit – and I’ve been able to put both of those majors to good and profitable uses.
The memory of Steve that sticks with me most strongly (and which I routinely share with prospective students during the interview process for the Colorado Knox Alumni Scholarship, as an example of how students at Knox are encouraged to broaden their horizons) is from my senior year. One fall afternoon, I got a phone call about an informational meeting for Rep Term VI. I’d been a theatre techie for much of my Knox career, and I was longing to give Rep Term a try, but as a double major, I still had a laundry list of requirements to check off if I was to graduate on time.
That phone call rattled me – so much so that I could barely concentrate on the homework assignment I was trying to complete. I figured I’d call Steve and he’d talk me out of this fanciful idea of devoting a full term to theatre courses unrelated to either of my major fields. I caught him in his office even though it was late on a Friday afternoon, and we arranged to meet for coffee at the Gizmo. We sat down with our drinks, and I told Steve the story of being courted for Rep Term – but instead of trying to talk me out of it, he fixed his eyes on me and earnestly said, “I think you should do it. You’ll regret it for the rest of your life if you don’t.”
He waved off my protests about all the graduation requirements I still had to satisfy. “Don’t worry about that,” he said, and went over to the counter to grab a blank napkin. When he got back to our table, he started jotting notes to himself on the back of it. I’m pretty sure he bent or broke every rule in the academic handbook to do it, but he found a way to let me do Rep Term and still graduate on time.
Steve’s priority was always on his students and his/her educational experiences. To the extent that rules and regulations supported that enterprise, he would tolerate them – but if there was a conflict, the student would always win over the rules. I am forever grateful to have been one of the many students to benefit from that attitude, and it has also shaped the way I approach my own work.
My thoughts on Steve’s retirement are summed up in the tagline from Aeschylus’ Agamemnon that I wrote in his memory book at the reception: “Sorrow, sing sorrow – but let the good prevail.” It’s sad to think that Steve will no longer be as active in the life of the college as he has been for these past 40 or more years – but the good he’s done will surely live on.
Michael Spires ‘85