Living for Giving: Abbie S. Fink uses skills, connections to create change
By Alison Bailin Batz
This spring, female leaders across Arizona will be honored by 48 Arizona Women, an Arizona Centennial Legacy initiative in partnership with the Arizona Historical Society that recognizes remarkable local women making a lasting impact in their communities, often with little fanfare. The program, only put on every 10 years, showcases how female leaders have transformed lives, built stronger communities and influenced and shaped the world around us.
Among this decade’s honorees is long-time Scottsdale and business champion Abbie S. Fink.
Kevin Bacon and Fink have two things in common.
The first: dancing, or the ability to fight for the right to dance, more specifically.
Much like Bacon’s “Footloose” character Ren fought for the right to dance when the powers that be outlawed it; Fink fought for a similar right at her area elementary school.
“Given it was the 1970s, I technically did it before Ren, trailblazing before my fictional counterpart,” says Fink with a laugh.
She organized a formal protest at the school when its administration tried to cancel her class graduation dance.
The protest caught the attention of the local news desks, who interviewed 11-year-old Fink about the cause.
“The dance was reinstated, but it was the interviews that stuck with me long after we won the right to do the hustle in the school cafeteria.”
While her first brush with the media; it was far from her last. However, that is not the second commonality with Bacon.
Fast-forward to the mid-1980s – freshly graduated from ASU – Fink dealt with the media daily in her public relations role for the Fiesta Bowl.
“This time, it was mostly behind the camera, coordinating parade floats and marching bands to appear during nightly newscasts, baton twirlers and tennis players featured in their local newspaper,” says Fink, who co-founded the Arizona Festival & Events Association and served as its president twice during her earliest days in business, the first on her long list of nonprotest-related accomplishments.
While working for the Fiesta Bowl, Fink met Scott Hanson, then a local sports reporter who also owned a public relations agency. Hanson, impressed with her talent, offered Fink a job in 1992. A freelancer at first, Fink joined fulltime in 1993, coming out of the gate to lead the charge on a project with global impact.
“Our law firm client asked us to take on some work for some of their tribal government clients in the region,” Fink says. “It was work on behalf of what would become the Arizona Indian Gaming Association, which eventually led to working with nearly a dozen tribal governments. Work that continues today.”
In the years since, Fink has been a vocal advocate, volunteer and leader in civic, tribal, disability, youth, nonprofit and communications communities. Her nickname by many in the community as a result: the connector.
This brings us to the second thing that she shares with Bacon. Much like there are “six degrees of Kevin Bacon,” there are “six degrees of Abbie S. Fink,” as she is the common denominator in several hundred businesses, causes and programs.
An active advocate for women, Fink is a founding member and past president of the Valley of the Sun 20/30 Club. She eventually was the first woman to serve on the board of directors for the National Active 20/30.
“In 2015, I was so honored to be asked back by the club to accept the first lifetime achievement award, named in my honor, no less, for community service,” Fink says.
Beyond that, she is a graduate and past president of Scottsdale Leadership. She is also a past member of the organization’s advisory board. As president of Scottsdale Leadership in 2006-2007, Fink played a crucial role in ensuring the organization’s future success, providing strong leadership as the organization experienced a year without an executive director on staff and managed to pull off a blockbuster 20th anniversary celebration at the same time. In 2010, Scottsdale Leadership honored Fink with its Hodges Award, which is granted to distinguished alumni.
“As I moved into an executive role at HMA, I also made it a priority for the firm to champion critical causes,” Fink says.
Her work at HMA on behalf of the local chapter of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America resulted in a decrease in meth and ecstasy use in the community and significantly raised awareness regarding the impact of misuse of prescription/OTC drugs. Through her work with the Arizona Bridge to Independent Living (now Ability360), Fink affected change for more than 15 years as an advocate for persons with disabilities.
“Working with Ability 360 on the communications team to support capital campaigns that resulted in the building of the Ability 360 Campus, including the Sports and Fitness Center for Persons with Disabilities, the first of its kind in the western United States, are particular points of pride,” says Fink, who in 2002 was the recipient of the “Ability Counts” Excellence in Media Award from the Phoenix Mayor’s Commission on Disability Issues.
Similarly committed to advancing the public relations profession, Fink has been an active member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) since 1986.
She is a past president of the Phoenix Chapter of the PRSA, past chair of PRSA Western District Conference and chaired its conference twice in the past 10 years.
She is a past chair PRSA’s Counselors Academy and a past chair of PRSA’s National Communications Committee. As a result of her dedication, PRSA has honored Fink at the national level with the Patrick Jackson Award for Distinguished Service.
While unclear how she had the free time, she also served for a decade on the board of directors for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale, including time chairing the organization’s largest annual event – Celebrate Youth Gala and Auction. In 2012, she was admitted to the executive board for the organization – at the time, the sole female on the board.
In 2020, Fink also served on Gov. Doug Ducey’s statewide campaign in partnership with top Arizona advertising and public relations firms to promote the use of masks and other important precautions to contain the spread of COVID-19.
“This first-of-its-kind collaboration featured creative concepts in English and Spanish developed by Arizona’s leaders in advertising supported by $3 million from the governor’s office,” Fink says.
Today, she is still leading HMA with business partner Hanson. She serves on the board of directors for Camp Colley Foundation. She volunteers at Congregation Beth Israel as a mentor to the B’nei Mitzvah kids and on the temple’s Centennial Committee.
“I like to stay busy, likely a bonus third thing Mr. Bacon and I have in common,” Fink says.
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