We never met the late Olive Louise Finkbeiner during her lifetime; however, by all accounts, she was an extraordinary woman of faith. We first learned of Mrs. Finkbeiner in July 2010 when we received a letter from a law firm representing her estate informing us that she had left a bequest to Africa University to establish an endowed scholarship in honor of her beloved pastor, Rev. Rick Plain.
Because we could find little information about this generous benefactor and we wanted to know more, we turned to her pastor and one of her close friends, Mrs. Karen Johnsen, whom we first met at the United Methodist Women Assembly in 2014.
Mrs. Finkbeiner was born and reared in Pasadena, CA. She was a graduate of Pomona College (Claremont, CA), and she attended the Music and Art Institute (San Francisco, CA). She contracted poliomyelitis as a young adult. As a consequence, her health deteriorated in later years. She endured great discomfort and chronic pain. Because the disease affected her spine, she walked stooped at the waist.
Mrs. Finkbeiner did not permit her physical condition to limit her participation in church activities nor in life. She was a faithful member of St. Andrew's United Methodist Church (Palo Alto, CA). She sang in the choir for many years, and, on occasion, was the substitute pianist and organist. She was very active in the United Methodist Women and served as co-president for two years. When walking became too difficult for her, she rode a bicycle for several miles to reach St. Andrew's. Later, she traded in the bicycle for a car that she used to drive short distances. Because it took quite some time for her to get in and out of her vehicle, Rev. Plain said that his responsibility after each choir practice was to make certain that "Ollie" was safely in her car and headed home before he locked the doors of the church.
Mrs. Finkbeiner was generous, gracious, loving, and very caring of others. She lived simply and frugally, choosing instead to use her financial resources to support numerous causes. She learned of Africa University through her local UMW unit. She was impressed that the university was pan-African, United Methodist-related, and that it actively recruited female students.
In the final two years of her life, Mrs. Finkbeiner was confined to her bed. Her pastor, Rev. Rick Plain, visited with her often, listening to her, giving words of comfort and spiritual guidance, and providing a ministry of presence.
Since the establishment of the Rick Plain Endowed Scholarship Fund in Memory of Olive Louise Finkbeiner on March 11, 2011, the fund has provided support for female students from Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Mrs. Finkbeiner's indefatigable spirit lives on. She is survived by her husband, Richard "Dick" Finkbeiner.
Elaine Jenkins, director of planned giving, Africa University Development Office
A World Service Special Gift is a designated financial contribution made by an individual, local church, organization, district or annual conference to a project authorized as such by the Connectional Table. Current World Service Special Gifts projects include the Africa University Endowment Fund, the Leonard Perryman Communications Scholarship for Ethnic Minority Students, the Methodist Global Education Fund, the National Anti-Gambling Project and the Lay Missionary Planting Network.