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Jerry's Journey: Beyond the Great Deadline

5:28 PM, Jan 29, 2012   |    comments
Jerry's Journey is a blog dedicated to the battle against prostate cancer written by a cancer survivor.
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His name suggests a contemptible double-crosser, a fiend who can't be trusted.

He was nothing of the sort.

In fact, cancer is the true fink.

I wasn't lucky enough to have Conrad Fink as a professor. I left the University of Georgia Journalism School the year before his arrival. I'm only vaguely familiar with the way he lived. I'm intimately familiar with the way he died.

By all accounts, Conrad Fink's conduct as a Journalist and a Professor were consistent with his time as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps. He was rigid and serious. The former Associated Press Vice President was a molder of young men. He could slash you to pieces with his famous red pen, then reshape you with a solid mortar of encouragement and enlightenment.

It was both an honor and a terror for students who were summoned to his office. When Conrad Fink demanded your ear, it meant that you'd written something worthy of his attention. Of course, there was always the risk that your lack of focus or detail are what caught his eye. Many a promising journalist entered his sanctum trembling.

Not long ago it was my son Robert, a burgeoning journalist himself, who got the call. Robert had submitted a column to the student newspaper about his father and grandfather's struggles with prostate cancer. Conrad Fink, as it turned out, had special interest in the topic.

With a solemn tone, this war weary journalist informed my offspring that he had spent two decades battling the very same disease. He asked Robert to keep the information confidential. Only a few knew that cancer was tormenting one of the University of Georgia's treasures.

Earlier this year, prostate cancer claimed that treasure. Conrad Fink was 80.

I don't know which weapons Conrad Fink employed to stave off his foe. I'm not sure of the level of aggressiveness of his cancer or how much pain it inflicted. From what I can tell, his absences from the classroom were infrequent enough to protect his secret. Twenty years is a long time to fight anything.

I read that Conrad Fink once referred to his own death as traveling "beyond the Great Deadline." He queried his students if they would run a front page story on his departure.

In my world, Conrad Fink is worthy of attention above the fold. His gallant twenty year battle is consistent with the courage of a young journalist who carried his reporter pad into the rice paddies of Viet Nam. The fact that cancer got the final word does not overshadow the professor's impact on a profession or the thousands of eager young writers who desired to follow him.

Perhaps some of those fledgling journalist will continue to write about Conrad Fink well beyond "the Great Deadline."

Maybe they'll continue to write about the evils of a disease that dared rob us of a valued teacher.

Prostate cancer, after all, is the real fink.


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