Sam Fine, who played the saxophone and taught at Towson University after leaving a successful career in information technology, died of pancreatic cancer Sunday at Gilchrist Hospice Towson. The Kingsville resident was 68.
Born Richard Samuel “Sam” Fine in Baltimore and raised in Northwest Baltimore’s Forest Park area, he was the son of Joseph Fine and his wife, Grace. He was a 1968 graduate of Milford Mill High School and played in a band, the Silver Tuxes. He earned a degree in mathematics at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
After teaching briefly at South Carroll High School and working at the University of Maryland in downtown Baltimore at its professional schools’ computer center, he earned a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Maryland, College Park. He later developed software at Allegheny Beverage in Cheverly.
He was one of five partners who in 1987 formed the Apex Group, a Columbia-based information technology firm. His business worked in network integration and software development. Mr. Fine was vice president of the software division. He and his partners sold the business in 1997.
“Sam was a particularly rare and valuable person. He was brilliant and ended up with five degrees in his life. As a software engineer, he had the uncanny ability to take complex things and make them simple,” said Donn Lewis, a former business partner and friend who lives in Columbia.
After Apex, Mr. Fine returned to the classroom to pursue his fascination with music. He earned a bachelor’s degree in music history and literature from what is now Towson University, a master’s in musicology from Peabody Conservatory of Music and a doctorate from the University of Maryland, College Park.
“My father had a passion for music and he took a hiatus from it to take care of his family,” said his son, Gregory S. Fine of Falls Church, Virginia. “His musical hero was the 1940s saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, but he also loved Crosby, Stills Nash & Young. He had grown up with the Beatles, The Who and Led Zeppelin. His musical tastes were all over the place.”
Mr. Fine joined the Towson University faculty as an adjunct professor and taught musicology and music history.
Phillip Collister-Murray, chairperson of the music department at Towson, said: “Sam was a consummate musician and a very gracious human being. He approached his work with discipline, He was also a wonderful supporter of Towson University. He understood the power of giving back in terms of his time and resources.”
Dr. Collister-Murray recalled that Mr. Fine played in the orchestras for performances of “Cabaret,” Gypsy" and “Ragtime” at the Maryland Arts Festival held at Towson.
Mr. Fine also played the saxophone in two local ensembles, Mood Swings Big Band and the Hank Levy Legacy Band.
“Sam was unbelievably accomplished in life and he felt he had no need to show it off,” said Dr. Jack Vaeth, director of the Mood Swings Big Band. “Sam was not about Sam. Sam was always about others.”
He also said: “As a musician, I appreciated his versatility. He could play alto sax or baritone. And because he was schooled in jazz, you could throw him a improvisational solo.”
He said Mr. Fine, as part of the Mood Swings, was hired to play at a wedding at the Kennebunkport, Maine, compound of the Bush family.
“The event was for some Bush cousins but we got later word that George [W.] and Laura would be showing up,” said Dr. Vaeth, the band’s director. “We heard back that the president and his wife liked us and we were hired for his farewell White House Christmas party. Sam played in the East Room for members of the Supreme Court, the cabinet and Congress.”
At his death Mr. Fine was president of the Baltimore Chamber Jazz Society.
“Sam was a generous man who was quiet and thoughtful. He gave back to our organization. He also loved the theater and was a patron of Center Stage,” said J. William “Bill” Murray, a Timonium resident and past president of the chamber jazz society.
Mr. Fine was a member of the Towson University Foundation and the Baltimore Roadrunners Club. He had competed in 13 marathons. He also traveled widely.
“Sam was intelligent and was always a down-to-earth person,” said Bernie Robier, a friend and fellow runner. “Sam was out running most every day. He was not the fastest of the group, but he was a good runner and a great conversationalist. You could talk to him about anything and he had opinions that made sense, even if you didn’t agree with him.”
A funeral will be held at 10:30 a.m. today at Sol Levinson and Brothers, 8900 Reisterstown Road.
In addition to his son, survivors include his wife of 41 years, Andrea Smith, a Baltimore County schools special education teacher, and Greater Baltimore Medical Center volunteer; another son, Jonathan Fine of Kingsville; a sister, Nan Krichinsky of Knoxville, Tennessee; and four grandchildren.