In Memoriam Professor Curtis Finch

A shock went through me on April 14, 2014, when I visited the colleagues of the Department of Agricultural Education and Extension at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virgina, USA, to benchmark the work we were doing at the Chair group of Education and Competence Studies at Wageningen University. I asked my colleagues in that Department to get me the telephone number of Curtis Finch, so that I could call him after many years, go to his home , and catch up. I had met Curt during the first AERA conferences I visited during the late 1980s. Studying curriculum development in vocational education, it was inevitable that I would run into the work of Curt and his colleague John R. Crunkilton. Together they had written the book ‘Curriculum Development in Vocational and Technical Education: Planning, Content, and Implementation’. This book is one of the rare American books on vocational education, and appeared in a time that, within the US, vocational education was not extremely popular amongst educational scientists, to say the least. But the book helped many young scholars like me to grasp the essentials of curriculum development in this special field, which has been neglected in so many countries for so long, but which has seen a remarkable revival.

The shock was caused by the fact that when I wanted to call Curt, his wife Karen, who picked up the phone, told me that Curt was severely ill, and could not communicate properly anymore, and that he would probably even not remember me. Not knowing what to say in fact at first, and trying to make an appointment anyway, I understood that this would be pointless. I told Karen that I appreciated the work of Curt very much, that it has meant a lot to me, and that many other colleagues in the field of vocational education were influenced by his work, but also by his pleasant personality.

A shock went through me today again, when I learned – via emails of Johanna Lasonen and Pekka Kämäraïnen – that Curt had passed away. A great loss for the vocational education theory, development and research community. I vividly remember the way in which Curt, with his natural calm, was an authority in the vocational education community within the American Educational Research Association. He navigated the Special Interest Group in this field steadily as an experienced commander-in-chief. We got to know each other, and started to regularly contact one another, especially around conferences. For me, therefore, it was a natural move to invite Curt as a member of the constituing Board of the Vocational Education and Training Research Network (VETNET), together with the late David Raffe and other colleagues, including Pekka Kämäraïnen. Curt helped us through the first years with his wise views and suggestions. In his In Memoriam, Pekka is saying ‘I could not always follow that closely what Curtis was up to’, which I understand. I like to believe that Curt wanted to support all who were in need of help in the field of vocational education studies. He certainly helped me and VETNET. As time went by, Curt retired and went to Asia to teach. During that time we lost contact, and at first I did not know he was back in Blacksburg when I was there. I just wish I had visited Curt in his natural habitat before he fell ill. Curt will stay in my memory as long as I will actively work for the improvement of vocational education and vocational education research worldwide. May his soul rest in peace, and may Karen understand that Curt has made his mark on planet Earth.