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In Memoriam: October 2013

Published: October 15, 2013

David M. Fine, Professor Emeritus of English, died at his home in Great Barrington, Mass., on April 15 at the age of 78.

After earning his Ph.D. in English at UCLA, Fine joined the faculty of the Department of English in fall 1968. For 35 years, he was a leader in the teaching of American literature and culture at CSULB and played an instrumental role in shaping the college curriculum in those areas of study. Soon after his arrival, Fine gathered a number of colleagues from various related fields to develop an interdisciplinary program in American culture, an initiative that resulted in the launching of CSULB’s undergraduate Program in American Studies in 1974.

An internationally recognized scholar, Fine authored dozens of articles and reviews as well as two books, The City, The Immigrant, and American Fiction, 1880-1920 (1977) and Imagining Los Angeles: A City in Fiction (2000), for which he received the Donald H. Pfleuger Local History Award of the Historical Society of Southern California. He also edited or co-edited several volumes including Los Angeles in Fiction: A Collection of Essays (1984; 1995), Unknown California (1985), San Francisco in Fiction: Essays in Regional Literature (1995), and John Fante: A Critical Gathering (1999). Among his many roles over the years in the profession at large, Fine served as president of the California American Studies Association in 1993-94 and held visiting faculty appointments at institutions on three continents, including a year as Fulbright Lecturer in American Literature at Waikato University in New Zealand in 1985-86.

Fine’s expertise as a literary scholar was matched by an encyclopedic knowledge of music (especially classical music and jazz) and of film, particularly film noir, which he also wrote about in recent years. His passion for learning and for the arts was accompanied, moreover, by a commitment to political and social justice, on which he acted as a member of CSULB’s Faculty Peace Committee in the 1970s and in support of nuclear disarmament, Amnesty International, PEN, and other organizations and causes.

After he retired from CSULB in 2003, Fine moved to Great Barrington with his wife, Elizabeth Young, also formerly of the English Department. In a very active retirement, he continued producing scholarly articles, delivering guest lectures, and offering adult-education classes in various literary subjects. Fine also completed a novel, Missing Persons (2012), which gave him perhaps the greatest pleasure of all his projects, and wrote an evocative series of essays, published in the online journal The Fickle Grey Beast, recalling episodes from his youth in Brooklyn and in Los Angeles. A musician from a young age, he had lately taken up the trombone again, performing in a jazz ensemble and in the Stockbridge Sinfonia in western Massachusetts.

An esteemed teacher and mentor, Fine will be warmly remembered by generations of colleagues and students for his many contributions to the CSULB community. He is survived by his wife Elizabeth; his children from his first marriage, Jason Fine and Rachel Herbsman; and two grandchildren. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, Oct. 26, from 3 to 5 p.m. in the patio room of the Karl Anatol Center.