Remembering Max Mintz
Max Mintz, professor in the department of Computer and Information Science, passed away on April 18, 2022, at the age of 79.
Dr. Mintz earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Electrical Engineering and a Ph.D. in Systems Theory, all from Cornell University. He joined Penn in 1974 as an Assistant Professor in Systems Engineering, now part of the Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering. He later changed his primary department to Computer and Information Science ( CIS) in 1986, and he was an integral part of CIS undergraduate education and advising for 36 years.
Dr. Mintz was a legendary teacher and an extraordinary advisor to hundreds of computer scientists. He was able to inspire his students to go well beyond their comfort level in their academic preparation and studies, for which he won numerous awards in recognition of his work as an educator, including the S. Reid Warren, Jr. Award, the University’s Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching, and the Ford Motor Company Award for Faculty Advising. He was also a member of the GRASP Lab, where his research interests incorporated control theory and decision-making under uncertainty.
Dr. Mintz’s students described him as being “funny, animated, exciting, clear, passionate and dedicated,” and many can recount the long list of “Maxisms” that he would deliver throughout his years of teaching. One student noted, “He genuinely cared for students and would do anything necessary to help them succeed.” Even while ill, he continued working on his textbook for his Freshman Seminar course, CIS 181: The Quantum and the Computer, which he was planning to publish as a book for the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.
Dr. Mintz was a friend, colleague and mentor to so many Penn Engineers. Anyone who knew him could recognize him from a block away due to his trademark yellow windbreaker, and he was always ready with a smile, whether for a colleague, a student in his class or a staff member he’d known for years.
Dr. Mintz is survived by his wife, Catherine Mintz.
Max Mintz was a wonderful advisor and educator. His love for learning translated into a love for teaching. He was a constant reminder of why I came to Penn: to learn from passionate people like him.
Chelsea Pan, CIS’24
Engineering school pushed me to the very limits of my abilities and sometimes beyond them, but Max Mintz always encouraged and supported me. There were times when I considered walking away from it all, and I might have if he had not assured me to not worry about a few failed midterms here and there. He was always excited about what I was doing and supported my vision for future work in the environmental field. He had a great passion to help people succeed.
Peter Karasik, SSE’79
Max Mintz had such tremendous energy during lectures and would always aggressively write out his thinking on the whiteboard. He would, of course, run out of space and be forced to start erasing things, much to the chagrin of many students. He would tell us, “Don’t worry, everything is stored on the eraser so we should be able to get it back!”
Eytan Seidman, CIS’01
Max Mintz saw my potential and believed in and supported me, despite that I wasn’t particularly excelling through the CIS curriculum at Penn. He helped to keep me in STEM when I was on the edge of switching out.
Kimberly Kreider, DMD’18
Illustration by Michelle Kondrich