As a Wagner College student, Scott Fink ’83 learned how to turn around a faltering operation. Now he’s investing to help neighbors turn their lives around.
Scott Fink knew what hard times looked like.
His parents, who met in an orphanage, raised their three boys in the projects of Sheepshead Bay.
He wasn’t a top student in high school, but he threw shot put on his track team — and his coach, Bob Murphy ’69, was a Wagner alum. “Murph” helped open the college door for Scott Fink.
“If not for him, if not for Wagner,” Fink says, “I probably would not have gone to college.”
As a junior, Fink took a leadership role in the college’s faltering Board of Social and Cultural Affairs. “What was, up to two years ago, a terribly inefficient, shrinking organization, has now been turned completely around under the guidance and instructive hands of its president, Scott Fink,” Richie Wilner wrote in the Wagnerian of March 19, 1982.
After graduating in 1983 with an accounting degree, Fink worked for a couple of years as an auditor for Brooklyn Union Gas, and another four years as a regional marketing manager for Lincoln Mercury — but it wasn’t until he bought his first car dealership, in 1989, that he really found his stride. Clearwater, Florida Mitsubishi went from losing a million dollars a year to the largest-volume Mitsubishi dealership in America in just three years.
But in 1999, after selling his business, Fink was at loose ends. He and his wife Kathy thought about moving from the Tampa Bay area back to the northeast — but something didn’t feel right. He couldn’t sleep.
“Everything I’ve built and developed, all the relationships I have are here,” Fink said to his wife, late one night. “I have to figure it out here.”
So that’s what he did. The next year, Fink was awarded a franchise for Hyundai of New Port Richey, which became the flagship of a chain of dealerships and “the highest-volume Hyundai dealership in the U.S. for eight consecutive years,” according to Tampa Bay Business & Wealth.
Fink spent 20 years building up that business — but in the midst of that long run of prosperity, the Finks grew disturbed by the poverty of their neighbors.
It was a “60 Minutes” segment on March 6, 2011, that gave the Finks pause — specifically, Scott Pelley’s report about homelessness in central Florida, called “The Hidden America.”
“It absolutely hit me emotionally,” Fink said, “and I looked over to my wife and she’s got tears going down her eyes. At the same time, we both said, ‘We gotta do something.’ ”
That urge to action led to their collaboration with Metropolitan Ministries of Tampa, a faith-based social service agency. Gifts and organizing work from the Finks led to the ministry’s expansion into Pasco County, north of Tampa, where the Finks live. Next year, the “Miracles of Pasco” campus will undergo a $12 million expansion, doubling its capacity to 48 housing units.
“I grew up in the projects, where money was always an issue,” Fink said. “We’re very fortunate, but I’ve learned that money does not make you happy. It doesn’t.
“Philanthropy and giving back and supporting my community — that makes me happy.”