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FINK, Theodore (1855-1942)

FINK, Theodore (1855-1942)

Theodore Fink, solicitor, politician, newspaper proprietor and educationist, was born on 3 July 1855 at St Pierre, Guernsey, in the Channel Islands. He was the youngest son of Moses Fink, storekeeper, and his wife Gertrude, née Ascher. Moses Fink, Gertrude and their eight children arrived in Victoria, in April 1861 aboard the ship Suffolk. In Geelong, Theodore first attended the Flinders National Grammar School before briefly entering Geelong College by 1871. The family moved from Geelong in 1871 and Theodore subsequently enrolled at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School.

Enrolment Register Detail, 1871.

Enrolment Register Detail, 1871.

In 1872, Theodore Fink commenced as an articled clerk with the legal firm of Henry J Farmer and commenced studying law part-time at the University of Melbourne. In 1877, he was admitted to practice as a solicitor. Nine years later he went into partnership with Best and Phillips. This legal practice was very successful, though Theodore, influenced by his brother, began to speculate in land and was virtually bankrupted by the collapse in prices in 1891. Despite this, he managed to retain his shares in a new company the Herald and Sportsman Newspapers.

In 1894, Fink became a member of the Victorian Parliament after winning the seat of Jolimont and West Richmond. He retained this seat until 1904. Fink had a strong and continuing interest in education and, in 1899, was appointed as Chairman of the Royal Commission on Technical Education and in1902 chaired the Commission on the University of Melbourne. Both of these enquiries led to considerable reforms. He later became a member of the University Council and the Council of Public Education as well as chairing further enquiries and conferences.

By the outbreak of World War I, Fink was Chairman of Directors at the Herald and, in later life, the Herald was his main business interest. In 1920, he appointed Keith Murdoch as editor. Fink’s war work was extensive with service on the State War Council and the Commonwealth Repatriation Scheme. Fink’s greatest legacy was his work in education. He was, however, well known for the diversity of his interests - as a supporter of the arts, a public speaker and a writer for various papers including Melbourne Punch.

Sources: Wilma Hannah, 'Fink, Theodore (1855 - 1942)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, Melbourne University Press, 1981, pp 497-498; Geelong College Enrolment Register 1871-1901 p37; Obituary Pegasus July 1942 p 52.
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