Al Fink, LLB ’52 (BA ’49), was a member of the famed law class of 1952, which boasted no fewer than two United States Supreme Court Justices. There is a myth that Bill Rehnquist, LLB ’52 (BA/MA ’48), ranked first and Sandra Day (later O’Connor), LLB ’52 (BA ’50), third, with every other classmate claiming the number two spot. Al was always cagey about class rankings but not about the moot court competition of 1951. The accompanying photo with a confident Al Fink at the podium and wistful Rehnquist and Day in the background says it all. Al won the competition hands down. Little did he know that the runners-up—his soon-to-become lifelong friends—would end up among the most highly respected jurists of their time.
As was typical of the Greatest Generation, Al had endured the test of war before he finished college. At 20 years old, he was already the command pilot in a B-24 Liberator with a dozen missions in Asia. He had put himself in harm’s way and survived. As he often told the many younger lawyers whom he mentored when asked how one endures the stresses of law practice, “It’s nothing compared to being shot at.” And he also knew the tragedy of loss. He often spoke of his childhood friend from Iowa with whom he had enlisted and who was killed when his P-47 crashed. Ironically, Al’s son Ken (BS/MS ’76), whom he named after his lost comrade, was killed many years later in an aircraft accident in Alaska.
Al was one of the most highly respected practitioners in his area of law, consumer finance. After working in-house at CIT, Al joined the San Francisco law firm of Severson & Werson and turned it into one of the leading firms, representing financial institution clients in major litigation around the country. He also was instrumental in shaping California’s consumer protection statutes and regulations. He was an officer and honoree of the American Financial Services Association, assisted the California Department of Corporations both in compliance and enforcement matters, served as a member of the San Mateo County School Board, and was appointed by Governor Pete Wilson to the California Law Revision Commission. Al’s approach to the law was simple and highly effective: Always try to interpret the law in a way that makes practical sense in the everyday world. He took special care in the training of young lawyers, including many who would later become leaders in his firm and in the financial services industry in general. He was an early advocate of women in the profession, encouraging them as if they were his own daughters. He was a consummate gentleman of the old school and yet ahead of his time. He also had a great gift in his ability to listen and, when there was something worth saying, in getting the rapt attention of an entire room by merely clearing his throat and speaking softly. Al’s love of flying didn’t end with the war and was matched only by his love of his family. He remained a pilot and general aviation enthusiast to the end. With his wife of 62 years, Arleen, as his navigator, he flew his V-tailed Bonanza throughout the West. He will be greatly missed by the aviation community, the legal profession, his partners, and, most of all, by his family especially his daughters Jenny Monbouquette and Vickie Lytle and their children.
Donald J. Querio, JD ’72 (BA ’69), was one of the many attorneys whom Allan Fink mentored over his long career and who had the honor of becoming both his partner and friend.