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Sidney Fine

Sidney Fine, a retired Department of History chairman who once joked that every year he had to talk "a little faster" to keep his late 20th-century history class current, died March 31.

At his retirement in 2001, Fine's 53 years at U-M were credited as representing the longest active teaching career at the university, according to a May 7, 2001, article in The University Record.
(Photo courtesy Department Of History)

"Sidney Fine was one of the best known members of the history department, an amazingly productive and distinguished researcher and an outstanding teacher," says Terrence J. McDonald, dean of LSA and a professor of history.

"He set a standard for the faculty of the history department that helped it become the great place it is today."

After serving as a Japanese-language officer in the Navy from 1942-46, Fine received his doctorate from U-M in 1948. He took a teaching position with the university that fall.

"You don't count on starting your career at one of the best universities in the country," Fine said in the 2001 article. "Normally, you work your way there. But I never lost my admiration for Ann Arbor or the university. I've been fortunate to stay at the university for my entire career."

In that article, News and Information Services writer Lesley Harding wrote, "Regardless of the size of his class or the number of courses he was teaching, Fine tried to have a personal relationship with each of his students. He wanted them to see him as a human being at the front of the class, not an actor. His door was always open, and students were often heard bending his ear.

"Fine says that as the years passed, his lectures became a bigger challenge. His first-semester class covers American history from the late 19th century to 1932. The second-semester class covers the history of the nation 1933-present. Every year, he's had to gather another year's worth of information, which has meant revising his lectures and, he jokes, 'talking a little faster' to cover more recent developments," Harding wrote.

Fine received many honors, including the Golden Apple Award from the U-M Hillel and the Henry Russell Award for research from the university. He received three honorary degrees: from DePaul University, Wittenberg University and the University of Massachusetts.

He was the author of 12 books, including "Sit Down," "Automobile Under The Blue Eagle," "Violence In The Model City" and "American Past."

A member of the American Historical Association, he also was a member of the University Musical Society. He loved opera, U-M football and the Cleveland Indians.

He is survived by his wife, Jean; daughters Gail Fine and Deborah Schmidt, and grandchildren Jacob and Emily Schmidt.

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