KINGSTON, R.I.– August 6, 2007 — A May University of Rhode Island graduate called Business Professor Clay V. Sink the most genuine man he knew.
A fellow University business professor who came to the University from the south said Sink, a fellow southerner, made her feel welcome on her first day in Rhode Island.
And Mark Higgins, dean of the College of Business Administration, expressed his concern about finding a successor for Sink, using the retired professor’s favorite expression, “Mercy.”
Two hundred thirty faculty members, University administrators, former students and friends gathered recently to honor Sink for his 38 years of teaching. Speakers told funny and warm stories, and close to $70,000 was raised for an endowment in his honor. The endowment will be used to support URI business students completing internships regionally, nationally and internationally. He retired at the end of the spring semester.
As a professor, adviser and administrator in the College of Business Administration, Sink, a resident of Kingston, was constantly extolling the virtues of internships to students.
But the night of his retirement party it was time for his friends to extol his virtues. M. Beverly Swan, provost and vice president for academic affairs, recited a lighthearted poem she created just for the occasion. A few verses follow:
“You’re known for your kindness
And your easy going style
For your love of your students
And for your warm smile.
You’ll always be remembered
As gentleman true blue
I just don’t know what
We’ll all do without you.
Professor Clay Sink
You are one of a kind
We were lucky to have you
You were a great find.”
Professor Laura Beauvais arrived for her job interview in Kingston in 1984 a stranger to Rhode Island. “When I met Clay, I felt immediately at ease.
“Once I was on the faculty, he made it a part of his routine to stop in my office regularly and ask, Laura, how are you doing’ That gesture always had a calming effect.”
She said Sink was very funny in an understated way, and he was always a gentleman.
“Early in my tenure, Clay came up to me and said, Laura it’s snowing down south.”
Since she and Sink were originally from the south, she thought he was making chitchat about their former homes. “But, he said again with a little more insistence, ‘It’s snowing down south.’ He was becoming embarrassed and then finally he said, ‘Laura your slip is showing’.”
Andrew Lonardo, a spring 2007 graduate, remarked about Sink’s commitment to students. “He is the most genuine person I know, and he always appreciates the moment.”
Jane Stich, assistant dean emeritus, said Sink was the first to ask her to lunch and what followed were 20 years of lunches and great friendship. “I cannot remember a day when we did not have fun.”
Richard Vangermeersch, professor emeritus of accounting and a close friend of Sink, had the audience roaring as he told a few tales. He recited a poem about the time Sink and he were at a URI Theatre production and a mouse jumped off the stage into the lap of another theatergoer. She screamed and ran from the theater.
He got even more laughs when he said Sink bore an amazing resemblance to Vice President Dick Cheney. Then Vangermeersch read a ‘telegram’ from Cheney to Sink, which read, “Dear Clay, thanks for being my double at high risk events. I enjoyed teaching your classes and did get used to saying Merci! Merci! at least five times each class. Now, that our cover is blown I want to state that, one, when my friend was shot during the hunting trip, Clay pulled the trigger, not me. Two, when the Democrats said I swore and made an obscene gesture, Clay did it. Please be sure history notes this.”
David Buckanavage, a 1980 graduate of the College of Business Administration and former student helper of Sink’s made a leadership gift to launch the Clay B. Sink College of Business Administration Internship Endowment. He traveled from his home in California with his wife Deborah and their two children to honor Sink.
“It was a deep honor and privilege to be one of his students,” he said. “Clay, you’ve had a major impact on students,” Buckanavage said. “You represent the best of what the University has to offer. It’s an honor and a privilege to call you my friend.”
Sink told the audience that the celebration was just a continuation of his first day at URI, which was a dream come true.
He said being named the grand marshal for commencement 2007 “gave me a chance to retire as a first-class passenger.”
During his remarks he thanked professors, friends and family. “It makes it so easy to do what one loves when one has so much support.”
As he wrapped up his remarks, the audience rose to give him an extended standing ovation.
The Sink Internship Endowment is part of the University’s “Making a Difference” capital campaign, which seeks $100 million to recruit and retain outstanding faculty, enhance the student-centered campus experience, provide undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships, and fund cutting-edge academic and research initiatives. For more information on the campaign, click on http://www.advance.uri.edu/giving/default.htm For information on giving to the College of Business Administration, contact Michaela Mooney at 401-874-4716.
CONGRATULATIONS: Andrew Lonardo, a URI spring 2007 graduate, left, congratulates URI Business Professor Emeritus Clay V. Sink, at a recent retirement party.
A GREAT NIGHT: URI Business Professor Emeritus Clay V. Sink enjoys the many tributes paid to him during a celebration of his 38 years of teaching. He retired last spring. URI Department of Communications and Marketing photos by Nora Lewis.