Indiana University Bloomington
Arts and Sciences News at Indiana University Bloomington

Alumnus Don Fiene Remembered

IU Slavic Alumnus and UT Professor

Posted: Monday, November 18, 2013

Donald Mark Fiene, an alumnus of the Indiana University Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures and longtime professor at the University of Tennessee, passed away Monday, Sept. 2, in Oakland, California.

Mr. Fiene, 83, was born in Schenectady, New York and studied at Cornell University before joining the U.S. Air Force in 1951. After serving as a navigator and bombardier in the military, Don graduated from the University of Louisville and then earned his Ph.D. in Slavic Languages and Literatures from IU. He went on to teach Slavic languages and German for over 20 years at the University of Tennessee.

IU Slavic Professor Jeffrey Holdeman, who studied at the University of Tennessee, has fond memories of Fiene. “There has not been a week that has gone by since I graduated from UT in 1992 – and again in 1993 – that I haven't told a story or reminiscence about him, either named or anonymous,” Holdeman said. “Every one of my students of Russian and beyond has heard multiple Fiene stories and has benefited from his being my professor.”

Holdeman and others remember Fiene as a quick-witted and fun individual who was not afraid of controversy. Fiene first made national news as a high school English teacher in Louisville, Kentucky, where he had his students read J.D. Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye." Several parents rose up in protest, and although he had the support of the American Civil Liberties Union, Mr. Fiene was fired from his job. He went on to correspond with Salinger, and also introduced author Kurt Vonnegut to his Russian translator in the early 1970s. The original correspondence between Vonnegut and Fiene is housed in the Lilly Library in Indiana University, and the two men became good friends.

Don Fiene published many works of his own, including “Alexander Solzhenitsyn: An International Bibliography of Writings By and About Him,” and “Inostranka: A Russian Reader.” He was married to Judith Ivy Fiene, a former associate dean of the School of Social Work at UT, for over 56 years. Judith Fiene described him as being “a hard worker . . . creating a productive life while dealing with bipolar illness and finally with a debilitating chronic illness (Lewy-Body Disease).”

Mr. Fiene is survived by his wife; his daughter, Karen Fiene of Berkeley; a son, Bruce Fiene of Worcester, Massachusetts; grandchildren Eli Lyons, Walker Fiene and Mary Wheeler; a sister, Linda Wagner; and other relatives. Donations in his memory can be made to Brain Support Network, P.O. Box 7264, Menlo Park, CA 94026, or to Archives and Special Collections, University of Louisville Libraries, Louisville, KY 40292.

In accordance with Mr. Fiene’s wishes, his brain has been autopsied and donated for research. His family hopes that his last, greatest wish has been fulfilled: “To become an electron in an elliptical orbit winging across the universe."

<< Back to List