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Dr. Abel King Fink, taught psychology at Buffalo State

Aug. 5, 1927 – Jan. 20, 2015

Dr. Abel King Fink of Williamsville, who taught psychology for many years at SUNY Buffalo State, died Jan. 20 in Brompton Heights assisted-living community, Amherst, after a heart attack. He was 87.

Born in Rockaway Beach, Queens, Dr. Fink graduated from Far Rockaway High School in 1944. Though he first went to college to study engineering, he changed his major to psychology when he realized his efforts would be used to promote war.

A lifelong pacifist, Dr. Fink earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Brooklyn College in 1948 and completed his graduate work at Teachers College, Columbia University, earning a master’s degree in educational psychology in 1950 and a doctor of education degree in 1956.

He also studied human relations at the National Training Laboratory, Bethel, Maine, and was certified as a trainer, educator and practitioner by the American Board of Examiners in psychodrama, sociometry and group psychotherapy in 1977. In 1986, he studied psychodrama at the Moreno Institute in both New York City and Beacon, with J.L. Moreno, the founder of psychodrama.

A longtime North Buffalo resident, Dr. Fink was a professor of psychology at Buffalo State from 1956 to 1995. He taught classes in psychology, human growth and development, human relations, group dynamics, sociodrama and role playing. He was at the forefront of the progressive education movement that focused on student-centered learning. In his classes, Dr. Fink taught students to learn about groups through their direct experiences instead of from a textbook. He is the author of the book, “Students Speak,” published by Buffalo State in 2010.

He was recipient of several awards, including the United Jewish Federation of Buffalo Service Award in 1977, the J.L. Moreno Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996 and Distinguished Career Award from Phi Delta Kappa, Buffalo Chapter, in 2013.

He was an active member of the American Psychological Society, Psychotherapy Association of Western New York, Buffalo Jewish Center’s young adult service committee, Jewish Family Service, B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundation, Greater Buffalo Memorial Society, American Society for Group Psychotherapy, American Board of Examiners, Citizens Council on Human Relations, Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, Buffalo Torch Club, Phi Delta Kappa, Housing Opportunities Made Equal, Network of Religious Communities of Western New York, Unitarian Universalist Church, Dickens Fellowship and Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues.

He enjoyed opera and Buffalo Philharmonic concerts, and was a lifelong swimmer and daily reader of the New York Times. Though Jewish, Dr. Fink believed in the universality of religion and attended both Jewish and Christian services.

He donated his body to the University at Buffalo Medical School.

Survivors include his partner of 18 years, Jane Pangallo; a daughter, Mira; two sons, Micah and Elias Z.; five grandchildren; and two great-grandsons.

A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. April 11 in Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo, 695 Elmwood Ave.

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