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Salisbury Alumnus Was One of Six Siblings in Family to Attend Catawba College

July 03, 2007

Category: Academics, Alumni


You can hear a bit of pride in the voice of alumnus John F. Rink '49 of Salisbury when he explains that he is one of the six among his seven siblings who graduated from Catawba College.

Rink recently memorialized his late brother and fellow Catawba alumnus, Hillery H. Rink, Jr. '49, when he established an endowed scholarship named for him at the institution. The Hillery H. Rink Jr. Endowed Scholarship will assist able and deserving students, allowing them to enjoy some of the same benefits offered at Catawba College and enjoyed by a half dozen Rink siblings.

In addition to John and Hillery Rink, their siblings who graduated from Catawba include Carolene Rink Peeler '44 of Chelmsford, Mass., (and her husband George D.M. Peeler '43), Naomi Rink Bernhardt '52 of Salisbury (and her husband Paul Bernhardt '50), the late Dorothy Rink Adams '52, and the late Joe L. Rink '56. 

The Rink family has long been associated with Catawba. Rink's aunt, the late Leona Fleming Herman, attended old Catawba in Newton and graduated in the Class of 1918. She established a First Family Scholarship at Catawba in her name through her estate. Mrs. Herman also established a First Family Scholarship at the institution in memory of her sister, Rink's mother, the late Ethel Fleming Rink. John Rink was also honored by his aunt when she established a First Family Scholarship in his name at Catawba. In addition to the new scholarship he has established in memory of his brother Hillery, Rink also has established an endowed scholarship bearing his name at the College.

"We take great pride in the long association Catawba has with the Rink family," explained Catawba Senior Vice President Tom Childress. "John has been a strong supporter of the College since his days as a student. He has served on our Catawba Chiefs Club Board and has consistently supported the institution's various capital efforts and annual fund drives. We could not ask for a more loyal alumnus or a better advocate for the College."

"I never thought I'd be able to help Catawba and I'm tickled to death that some investments I made have paid off and I'm able to," Rink said.

John Rink's family had a family farm and ran a grocery store in downtown Salisbury for many years and he remembers that all of his siblings worked. "My dad thought busy hands kept little boys and girls out of trouble and so we all pitched in. I took orders on the phone, helped make deliveries and did whatever was needed in the store. The only thing I remember doing that I didn't like there was moving potatoes from one side of the store to the other because that was just make work to keep me busy."

In addition to his work at the family store and farm, Rink also worked for the "Salisbury Post," first running a paper route, and then working in the circulation department while he was in high school. Little did he know at the time that his early affiliation with the "Salisbury Post" would turn into a lifetime career.

After graduating from Boyden High School, Rink enlisted in the U.S. Navy. "I'd already heard too much about the Army from my buddies who served. They wrote about crawling through the mud and hiding in fox holes. I decided I'd go into the Navy because at least there the enemy's shooting at the ship, not at you."

The Navy sent Rink to radio school and told him he was going to the South Pacific, but three weeks shy of his graduation from radio school, he learned the Navy needed typists in Cleveland, Ohio. "They took 256 of us out of school and shipped us up there to work for the U.S. Navy Bureau of Supplies and Accounts. I stayed until December 20, 1946 when I was discharged," he recalled.

Rink did not waste any time before returning to Salisbury, reclaiming his job at the "Salisbury Post," and enrolling at Catawba under the G.I. Bill. He came to campus in February of 1947 and thought that he was going to "play it cool, slow and easy, taking summers off."  Instead, he accelerated his pursuit of a business degree with a concentration in accounting, graduating in August of 1949. "I'd go to college in the morning and work at the "Post" in the afternoon and help dad out in the store in between."

The Hurley family owned the "Salisbury Post" at that time and Rink got to know J.F. Hurley Jr., who ran the paper. Hurley was a great influence on Rink. "I never heard him say anything bad about anyone and I never saw him mistreat or talk badly to anyone," Rink recalled. "He always had time for everybody. If you would just wait your turn, he'd see you. Mr. Hurley saw times when he couldn't make payroll, but he told his employees he'd give them I.O.U.s and made arrangements at local stores to honor those. Under his leadership, I came up through the circulation department, not the newsroom or advertising."

Rink ended up spending 56 years as an employee of the "Salisbury Post," rising through the ranks to general manager. His association is actually 59 years, Rink pointed out, if you count the three years he ran a paper route as a boy.

As a student at Catawba, Rink remembers listening closely in the classes of the late Professor Millard "Sunshine" Wilson.  "I sat on the front row and listened to him. I learned that if you would just listen, he'd tell you anything you'd need to know in the first 15 minutes of class."

He also recalled the late Dr. Milton Braun, a physics professor, who was "so darn smart, I'd ask him a question and he'd answer it with a question."  Braun and Rink's brother, Hillery, grew to be close personal friends.

Today, although he's retired and has just recently recovered from a broken back, Rink works as a tree farmer on his 30 acres in Rowan County. "I grind stumps, haul stumps, and burn stumps and other debris, but I'm beginning to see daylight at the end of the tunnel," he explained.

When asked what advice he would give a current Catawba student, Rinks said, "Learn to get along with your fellow man and learn that if you work and apply yourself you can make a heck of a lot more money than if you try to steal it or con someone. Earn it and people think something of you instead of nothing and when you go to bed at night, you can sleep in peace and quiet like I do."