President Finks: The Man Behind The Curtian

By Glenn Battishill

It’s 8:45am and I sat in a waiting room chair drumming quietly on my notebook. I looked at the clock for the fifth time, making sure that I wasn’t late for arguably the most important interview I’ve ever had.

After a three minute eternity, President Fred Finks walked out of his office and greeted me with a warm smile and a firm handshake. He gestured to his office and urged me to make myself at home.

He swept into his office and sat down across the table from me. He asked me what exactly what I was looking for with my story.

“I just want to see what an average day for you is like,” I said. He chuckled and says to me with a smile, “there is no average day for the President. We have quite a busy day ahead of us.”

From the moment he arrives on campus sometime after 7 a.m. – Finks is at the ser- vice of the University.

Mondays are development days for the President. He meets with various commit- tees to discuss a wide variety of topics that are meant to better the university.

Tuesdays function as cabinet days, during which Finks meets with eight to ten vice presidents from all of Ashland University’s administration offices to discuss the macro- issues of the university.

Wednesday is when Finks meets with individual officers and makes himself available for meetings.

The rest of the week, according to Finks, is full of “road days,” for which he travels and raises money for the University.

On average, Finks leaves campus around 6 p.m. but his work never stays behind.

“I may leave campus,” Finks said, “but I work at home for hours and spend at least three nights a week at a University commitment.”

Finks’ office is on the second floor of Founders Hall. Artwork covers the walls and close to ten small eagles watch over the room. A bowl of candy sits on his office and he gleefully scoops up a handful of sour patch kids before sitting. When the clock in the corner of Finks’ large – yet humble – office chimed on the hour, we walked out the door and our day began.

We attended an hour-long development meeting, followed by an hour-long planned- giving meeting, where in they discussed possible fundraising and donors. We concluded with a meeting to discuss the College of Nursing. Finks led the way upstairs to the first development meeting, asking me for the correct pronunciation of my last name and where exactly I was from. At the time, I thought it was idle small talk to make the walk go faster.

When we entered the meeting room, however, Dr. Finks introduced me to every- one in attendance, explained to them that I would be shadowing him for a story, and told me to take a seat for the meeting.

When the meeting began, Finks quietly sipped on his cup of coffee – which he in- formed me earlier was an essential part of the day – and listened politely to each member of the committee as they discussed the issues at hand. When he did speak up about an issue, he did so with tact and respect, careful not to condescend his fellow committee members.

When donors became a topic of discussion, Finks began to exhibit an amazing memory and perfect recall for names and phone numbers. Finks himself has a list of twenty-five donors that he, and only he, personally deals with.

When the first development meeting concluded Finks walked down to the alumni office to chat with the staff members there.

“I usually walk around the halls in the morning and just say hello to everyone,” Finks said. While in the alumni office, for example, he joked casually and made small talk with the staff members there, calling each of them by name.

Although Finks spends days on the road, the students are who Finks cares most for.

“My main responsibility is to makes students as successful as possible while they are here at Ashland,” Finks said. “When I was a student here, I was an individual – not a number – and that’s how I want students to feel. I want to help them succeed.”

Finks has an open door policy for everyone on campus, students especially. Finks wants students to think of him as an accessible president.

“Every student has my phone number,” Finks said, “I have over 2,500 Face- book friends, and I try to attend as many student activities as possible. If a student has an issue that they can’t get resolved, I want them to come to me, but before I do anything, I make sure that they have gone through all right channels. I’ll help resolve any issue, but I’d like to be a last resort.”

It’s Finks’ personal philosophy that he needs to be seen as much as possible on campus.

“I try not to let students walk by with- out a hello from me,” Finks said, “and I try to remember as many student’s names as possible.”

Finks has two major goals when it comes to AU. The first is to leave it better than when he found it. The second is to make a difference.

“The best thing I can do for the university is prepare them for a new president,” Finks said. “I want to be an involved president and I’d like to think I’m a transparent person. I’m a simple person and I don’t get caught up with titles.”

During the carry-in lunch we attended at the end of our meetings, not a single person referred to him as anything but “Fred,” and during the meal, no one was afraid to approach the president of the university.

“I value people,” Finks said. “I know where I come from.”

Finks originally hails from Maurertown, VA, where he grew up with his modest family, and simple beginnings. If anything can be said about Dr. Finks, it is certainly that he cares about his work. Finks is one of the most visible people on campus, often times greeting passersby and attending campus events just because he enjoys being with students.

“Ashland University is about accent on the individual,” Finks said, “It’s about creating a personable university and filling its administration with people who care about their calling.”