July 30, 1954
The Board of Directors of Manumit School has received with deep regret the resignation of Benjamin Fincke as Co-Director.
The extent of our loss can only be measured by enumerating some of the immense and varied contributions he has made in the last seven years to the success of the School.
By his return as Co-Director seven yers ago, he strengthened the morale of the entire School, which had been strained by personal difficulties in the war and immediate post-war years, by the Pawling fire and the exigencies of the move to Pennsylvania, to a site not previously adapted to school use.
In particular, he strengthened the morale of the senior Co-Director which had been sagging under attempts to cope with these difficulties.
During his first year of co-directorship, he released enough of the energies and time of his Co-Director to make it possible for him to raise sufficient funds to save the School, which had been jeopardized by the expenses of the move.
At the beginning of his administration, he helped the summer camp, which had been stricken by polio and hampered by wartime personnel shortages, to regain its prestige, through bringing in a strong group of young alumni, personally loyal to him, as counselors.
In cooperation with a group of distinguished psychological advisers of Manumit, he re-introduced among students and staff some highly salutary concepts of decorum, personal obligation and restraint, standards which had tended to sag during the war years.
In collaboration with a gifted secretary of the student council, he composed a penetrating analysis and charter of the areas in which the council should functuon, based on the principle that the council’s authority in certain areas must be matched by responsibility, cheerfully accepted and properly discharged.
He re-emphasized the need, in a school like Manumit, to provide for each child an intimate, reliable advisorial counselling relationship with a trusted adult. And he backed up this emphasis, down the years, with a series of brilliant advisorial and counselling jobs in which he rehabilitated, or helped establish, a constructive and effective selfhood for a significant number of worthwhile boys and girls.
He reminded the executive committee, the students, and the Board of the important fact that certain amount of physical brightness and charm are essential in enlisting the enrollment, sympathy and support of most parents. And he translated this insight into reality, overcoming by his enthusiasm and persuasiveness the skepticism or slothfulness of his associates in this area.
He gave $1000 outright to the School for decorating, and he loaned without interest, until such date as the property may be sold, an additional $5000, at a time when this help was essential. In the last year, when funds were again tight, he made available $4000 collateral for six months, until contributions came in, thus making it possible to meet the payroll on time.
He brought to the tast of enrollment rare gifts for winning confidence of new parents and persuading them to entrust their children to Manumit.
He found time during the middle years to do successful teaching in the lower school. And throughout the seven years, he helped push forward Manumit’s traditional and rather distinguished emphasis on the arts, through many different approaches. He gave vital stimulation to lower school creative dramatics, and constant encouragement to original composition in English and to glee club singing.
And in particular, with the establishment of the senior high school, he set the tone of the high school drama program on a distinguished, almost semi-professional level, of which students and parents are justly proud.
For the past four years, he and his wife, Magda, have made available their own private kitchen for the use of the School’s domestic science program, and their charming private living room for the entertainment of parents and stimulation of enrollment, and for many successful and creative meetings of student government and staff committees.
He has composed at least two-thirds of the most recent, and in the opinion of the staff, by far the best editions of the School catalogue.
And he has inaugurated a program of indoctrination of new staff members in the philosophy and practice of the School, and has composed a sensitive and interesting manual for new staff members, to help facilitate this important process.
He has made himself available when needed as a friend to students, staff members, parents, Board members and fellow administrators, and provided an example of insightful sympathy, generosity, sincerity, and protectiveness which has helped to orient and stabilize Manumit and to make possible many of the rewarding successes with personalities which Manumit has had.
The Board understands and feels obliged to accept Mr. Fincke’s personal and family reasons for leaving Manumit and the boarding school field.
But when we consider the future loss to Manumit of contributions such as we have reviewed, we can accept Mr. Fincke’s resignation only with deepest and most sincere regret.
After seven years of devoted, highly effective service as Co-Director of Manumit, Ben Fincke and his wife, Magda, have decided to withdraw from campus life and from the boarding school field. Ben gives so much of himself to young people and he and Magda have thrown themselves so whole-heartedly into the life of the school, that they felt it was becoming hard for their own growing family to stand by in residence and have to continually witness these generous gifts to other children.
While those of us who have had the privilege of working with Ben deeply regret the loss of the privilege of working with him and devoutly hope that his talents will not be lost to Education in one of its non-resident aspects, or at least to the child guidance field, nevertheless, we must respect the integrity of his and Magda’s decision.
The accompanying resolution, drawn up and signed by the full membership of Manumit’s Board of Directors, represents an effort to pay recognition of Ben’s contributions to the work of Manumit and to express appropriate gratitude. While it is impossible to do this fully, it was felt by all of us that the situation calls for a sincere attempt.
John Lindlof, who has been a member of the Manumit faculty for the past seven years and for the past year in the capacity of Assistant Director, has been appointed by the Board to a full Co-Directorship with me and will serve from here out in this capacity.
John and I and the entire Board are very happy that Ben is continuing as a member of the Manumit Board of Directors and that we are to continue having the benefit of visits and counselling from him in the years to come.