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Santa Monica Colleges Announces New Social Justice Scholarship

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By Lookout Staff

August 21, 2015 -- During his tenure as a Santa Monica College (SMC) trustee and professor, Judge David Finkel furthered his passion for championing the cause of those society threatened to leave behind.

On Thursday, SMC officials announced that Finkel’s family had established the new Judge David B. Finkel Social Justice Scholarship “to continue his legacy of providing educational opportunities for SMC students.”

“Santa Monica College and the SMC Foundation are honored by the Finkel family’s decision to establish a scholarship fund to honor David Finkel’s legacy,” said SMC Foundation Interim President Lizzy Moore.

“This scholarship will help make it possible for many deserving SMC students – those David Finkel championed tirelessly in his lifetime – to move forward in their education.”

Judge Finkel, who died at age 83 on July 4 after a prolonged illness, “had a prolific career that spanned six decades of struggles for civil rights, freedom of speech, affordable housing, and educational equality,” college officials said.

A founding member of Santa Monicans for Renters Rights (SMRR), the City’s most influential political organization, Finkel served on the City’s Rent Control Board in the early eights and was elected to the City Council in 1986. He was elected to the Santa Monica Municipal Court in 1990 and was elevated to Los Angeles Superior Court judge in 2002.

After retiring from the bench, Finkel began teaching political science at SMC, focusing on constitutional law, and was elected to the SMC Board of Trustees in 2006 and 2010. He continued to volunteer in the classroom until his illness interfered.

“David knew how difficult it was for so many kids to even gain entry to college,” said feminist artist and activist Bruria Finkel said of her husband. “And once they were here at SMC, he was really anxious for them to be able to go on to the universities, and to really perform the way they wished.

“We wanted something tangible to remember him by, and setting up a scholarship seemed like the right thing to do. He wouldn’t be happy that we named the scholarship after him, but it will help those who loved him to honor his memory by carrying on his legacy.”

The City of Santa Monica has provided a matching-funds gift of $10,000.

“The City Council honors our colleague David Finkel in a way that reflects his deep commitment to education for all,” said Santa Monica Mayor Kevin McKeown. “Our hope is that these matching funds from the City of Santa Monica will spur even more generous donations to the Judge David B. Finkel Social Justice Scholarship.”

The scholarship will offer annual awards for SMC students enrolled in programs for under-represented students, who have a minimum 2.5 GPA, are active volunteers in their community and need financial assistance to continue their education, college officials said.

Undocumented students who qualify under AB 540 also are eligible to apply for the Judge David B. Finkel Social Justice Scholarship.

“No students should be kept from their dream of an education because of a lack of funding, Dad believed,” said Amy Shimshon-Santo, one of the Finkel daughters.

“He admired SMC students’ tenacity to succeed in spite of difficult circumstances. He would be happy to see us coming together as a community to support educational opportunity.”

For information on how to contribute to the scholarship fund visit or call the Santa Monica College Foundation at (310) 434-4215.

A celebration for Judge Finkel will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 30, in The Broad Stage, located at the SMC Performing Arts Center on Santa Monica Boulevard at 11th Street, Santa Monica.

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