Posted by:Benjamin R. Hill | Published: December 9, 2022

Don Fine Posthumously Named Distinguished Service Award Recipient 

Donald E. Fine (Zeta Epsilon/Long Beach State 1963) was posthumously named the 141st recipient of Theta Chi Fraternity’s Distinguished Service Award. The Distinguished Service Award is the highest honor that the Fraternity may confer upon a member and publicly recognizes and properly honors Theta Chi alumni who, by reason of outstanding international service, personal effort, and unselfish interest, have made distinguished contributions to the lasting good and general welfare of Theta Chi Fraternity. At no time can the number of awards made exceed the number of years in age of the Fraternity.

Don was born in Dayton, OH, in 1936, proud of the fact that while growing up, he was a friend and neighbor of Orville Wright.

Don attended the University of Dayton and graduated in 1958 with a B.S. in Economics. Longing for something more than the Midwest and hearing the ocean’s call, Don moved to California in the early 1960s. He taught high school in Manhattan Beach and attended graduate school from 1962-1964, earning an M.B.A. at Long Beach State University.

Don Fine

Young Don Fine

As fate would have it, while in grad school at Long Beach State, Don met Doug Jansen (1967) while surfing and inevitably encountered the rest of the initial group attempting to organize and start Theta Chi Fraternity on campus. He took a liking to the men and their mission and, on May 8, 1965, the group became Zeta Epsilon Chapter; Don was a Charter Member, Roster #9.

In 1982, Don became President of the San Diego Alumni Association and was part of the inaugural group of Theta Chi Ski Bums, an annual tradition that continues to this day as the Annual David E. DeVol Theta Chi International Ski Trip. 

Don was also a member of the Gamma Theta Century Club and regularly attended the annual San Diego Theta Chi Founders Day banquets and monthly First Tuesday Theta Chi Lunch Bunch events.

Brother Fine served with distinction as a Regional Counselor in Southern California from 1986-1992. He also served on a number of Grand Chapter committees including the Risk Management and Standards Committee (1989-1990) and the Alumni Committee (1989-1992).

At the 136th Anniversary Convention in Minneapolis in 1992, he was elected to the Grand Chapter, serving as International Historian, and later International Counselor, receiving the Grand Chapter Service Plaque in 1996. In 2012, Don received the Earl D. Rhodes Theta Chi for Life Award.

He was a member of the Installation Committees for Theta Iota/UC-Santa Cruz (1989), Theta Sigma/UC-Santa Barbara (1994), and Theta Phi/CSU-Bakersfield (1994).

Don Fine standing

Don Fine b&w

Don left teaching and eventually went into real estate and related services as a mortgage broker in San Diego. He was a very successful real estate broker/agent and established and served as president of Fine Financial Services.

Don served on a number of boards including the United Way, Del Mar Rotary, Encinitas Schools Corporation, and the 1909 Club University Club.

Although he was born in the Midwest, Don loved the beach and everything associated with it –

the ocean, sailing, and surfing. He became a founding member of the California Surf Museum in Oceanside, CA.

Beyond the beach, Don loved his wife, Edie (educator and author), and his two sons, Michael and Greg.

Don Fine talking with collegians

Brother Fine joined the Chapter Eternal on May 6, 2014, following a major stroke.

Brother Fine’s award was presented posthumously during an alumni event at Los Alamitos Racecourse in Cypress, CA, hosted by Zeta Epsilon Alumni on August 14, 2021.

The citation covering his award reads as follows:

Presentation of Brother Fine's Award
Presentation of Brother Fine's Award

Brotherhood may be best described by our Creed of Theta Chi, but it was embodied in life in Brother Fine. As a Charter Member of Zeta Epsilon Chapter at Long Beach State, Brother Fine helped establish a new lifeblood of leaders and Resolute Men. His service continued unbroken as an alumnus, advising chapters in San Diego and in the greater California region. His efforts included reviving troubled or dormant chapters, promoting and attending key brotherhood events, and on the Grand Chapter. He is best remembered for his one-on-one connections to brothers of all ages, instilling within them the precepts of Theta Chi in real life, and helping hundreds of men find their best brotherhood.

Don Fine at an event

Don Fine with the Grand Chapter

Past International President and long-time friend Dave DeVol wrote, “I first met Don Fine in 1964 at the Theta Chi Colony at what was then Long Beach State College. He was a tall, lanky, sun-burned, tow-headed kid, who would later become known as a ‘surfer dude.’ Don Fine was widely known throughout the Fraternity and was one of our most popular brothers. In later years, as his shock of blond hair slowly turned gray, he became known affectionately as ‘The Silver Fox.’ For over 50 years, Don Fine and I traveled down many Theta Chi roads together. He was a good and loyal friend and a great brother, the epitome of ‘Theta Chi for Life.’”

Don Fine listening

Don Fine in vehicle

Lindsay Olsen (Delta Psi/Kansas 1983), Pat O’Connor (Chi/Auburn 1978), Al Calarco (Eta Pi/East Stroudsburg 1978), and Warren Hoffman (Alpha Iota/Indiana 1976) served on the Grand Chapter alongside Brother Fine and offered the following memories:

“Don was always a true gentleman, kind and genuinely interested in everyone that he met.”

– Lindsay Olsen

“Don Fine was one of the most positive people I ever met. He always had a firm handshake and a smile and he epitomized the principle of the Helping Hand.”

– Pat O’Connor

“Congratulations to Brother Fine, I’m so happy he was recognized in this way. Don had one focus while serving on the Grand Chapter: To make the Fraternity as great as possible for all of our brothers. I know he would be proud of this recognition and give all of the credit to everyone else!”

– Al Calarco

“Don was always optimistic and happy. He had a special quality that our collegiate brothers easily related to and they were always happy to see him. One mythical story about Don was a time he and I were traveling together to a Regional Conference in northern California. Don had made the arrangements, so I was following his lead. At the airport, we were engrossed in a conversation about the upcoming weekend and what we wanted to accomplish. In those days at the San Diego airport, security was non-existent, and they frequently loaded two planes from the same jetway…this was the case for our flight. Don and I were so involved in our conversation that we did not realize we had boarded the wrong flight – until the plane was in the air! After admitting our dilemma to the stewardesses, who, by the way, had obviously not checked our tickets, the pilot called ahead and the airline arranged a flight back to Sacramento for us. Back then, there were no cell phones, and, as a result, there was no one at the Sacramento airport to meet us – so we were on our own to get to the conference. We found out later the brothers had written us off thinking we had stood them up. We arrived at the event and walked into dinner just in time for the evening’s program. Without missing a beat, Don strolled to the microphone and started the program. He did not get too far before the audience demanded an explanation for our tardiness. Don brought down the house as he described our odyssey that day. It was a fun start to a wonderful weekend and Don endeared himself to everyone in the room that night and enjoyed retelling the story over the years at Theta Chi gatherings. I was blessed to share this and many other experiences over the years with Don and so many other Theta Chis also benefitted from their interactions with the Silver Fox!”

– Warren Hoffman

Don Fine grinning

Don Fine with the 1994 Grand Chapter

As a collegiate member, Former International Treasurer Herb Morgan was under the tutelage of Brother Fine. He shared, “The mere mention of Don Fine conjures memories of smitten college girls from the 1950s to present day. Since his passing, his study factor has grown exponentially.”

Past International President Mike Maloney recalled, “I am forever thankful to Don Fine. Don was a connector. He reached out to people and made them feel comfortable. Don was like a volunteer Rush Chairman. Over 30 years ago, it was Don Fine who invited me to get involved as an alumnus Theta Chi volunteer. Don’s invitation and encouragement started me on an incredible journey that continues to bring me wonderful experiences and countless friendships. Starting with Don’s initial invitation to help, I am amazed that no matter how much I give to Theta Chi, I always get more in return. This amazing gift all started with Don Fine.”

Past International President Dick Elder shared, “I have many fond memories of Don and always enjoyed catching up with him at various Theta Chi events over the years. My fondest memory was actually a very simple conversation he and I once shared over a cold beverage, just catching up on our lives together. He said to me that he felt really blessed to be a member of ‘two’ chapters…his home chapter (Zeta Epsilon) at Long Beach State and his adopted chapter (Gamma Theta) at San Diego State. We both reflected on the fact that our Fraternity experience was so enriched by our involvement with the International Fraternity…and that two guys from Southern California had truly felt and known the bonds of brotherhood with so many great Theta Chis from around the world. Don truly embraced the Helping Hand to so many brothers with his friendship, support, and life-long commitment to Theta Chi. I can honestly say that I have met few people who cherished their membership in Theta Chi more than Don Fine. Distinguished Service – that absolutely is the legacy he left us ALL.”

Don Fine with Jim McMahon

Bill Hembree (Zeta Epsilon/Long Beach State 1966) wrote, “Don was a really gregarious brother. He was a really friendly and mature guy. And he was always either laughing or he had a big, genuine, wall-to-wall smile. I also seem to recall his nickname was ‘The Old Troll Who Lives Under a Bridge’…”

International Historian (and fellow Zeta Epsilon) Jim McMahon (1979) shared, “Brother Fine was a true Theta Chi rock star. Don is universally praised by all who knew him for his generosity, encouragement, and positive attitude. His was a true Theta Chi life well lived - Charter Member, Alumnus Adviser, Regional Counselor, Grand Chapter Member, and many other key roles. But his true gift was his ability to connect one-on-one with brothers of all ages. Every time Don attended any kind of Theta Chi event, you would find him surrounded by smiling, laughing brothers. That’s why I always describe Brother Fine as a true Theta Chi rock star.”

Congratulations and well done, Brother Fine. Long live the legend of the Silver Fox!