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Flashback Friday: President Fintel

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Photo Courtesy of Roanoke College

Article Written by Sarah Joseph

Roanoke College mourns the loss of its eighth president who was responsible for so much of the current campus. The building of Olin Hall, Bast Gym and the former Sutton Student Center, along with the purchase of Elizabeth Campus, all happened while Norman Dale Fintel was president of Roanoke.

Linda Miller, Roanoke’s archivist, along with some old issues of The Brackety-Ack, offer insight into the college during Fintel’s tenure. Fintel’s 14-year presidency spanned a great deal of Brackety-Ack issues.

Fintel entered his position as president in 1975 during a time of economic instability. The job market was bad, especially for new graduates, as the baby boomer wave shocked the market. Roanoke students found it hard to find jobs. In a 1976 Brackety-Ack issue, this is specifically addressed in the article “Job prospects improve for ‘76 college grads.”

The first mention of Fintel was in an article on September 19, 1975, stating “New President Chosen.” The rest of the 1975-1976 academic year feature pieces on the Fintels’ adjustment, particularly Jo Fintel, Fintel’s wife, Fintel’s speedy enactment of his building program with refurbishments to the Student Center and the building of Olin Hall (“Roanoke College Elated – Fine Arts Center Begins”), and complaints of the rising tuitions rates –  a 6-7% increase to $3,780 for residents and $2,525 for commuters.

Olin Hall was completely funded by the Olin Foundation, based in New York City. The last article in that school year described Fintel’s acceptance speech, which outlines his plans for the future of Roanoke, to unite the “spiritual, practical, emotional, and intellectual dimensions” to further the liberal arts aspect of the college.

In their last three years at Roanoke, the Fintels moved from the current President’s House on Market Street to the Alumni House on High Street to be closer to the students and the campus. Fintel found it challenging to be well acquainted with the students as he is often away securing alum support and endowments, said Miller.

He also built Bast Gym in 1982, acquired the Elizabeth Campus and the courthouse, established the Fintel Scholars program, and held a huge fundraiser for the library. Fintel was described as the president involved in the “brick and mortar stuff,” according to Miller.

In 1989, the year of Fintel’s retirement, the April Fool’s Day issue of The Brackety-Ack satirized Admissions issues, announcing “The New Solution to Admissions Problems.”

The article stated that, “Dr. Fintel announced his solution to a declining environment: test tube matriculators!” This reflects the attitude of the times toward genetic engineering, particularly the extreme imagination of the media and public. In the article, they claimed that Fintel was going to make new undergraduates through the laboratory, showing how the ‘80s was a time of technological advancements.