I was a grad student at Princeton several decades ago. While my degree was in religious studies, I audited one of Professor Mahoney’s undergraduate courses on the history of science and became friends with him. He was always willing to meet with me to discuss issues from the course. He was as kind as he was knowledgeable. I learned more from him than from any of my teachers in religion. I stayed in touch with him intermittently and was very sad to learn of his death. He was a decent, unassuming, and generous person.
Since 1997 Mike Mahoney, and I had lunch every other Friday. At our first meeting we recognized our extensively overlapping scholarly interests, and all our subsequent discussions were exemplars of effective intellectual exchange and collaboration. Mike’s expertise in, as he liked to call it, the histories of computing made invaluable contributions to my own scholarly work examining social change as induced by information and communication technologies. Over the years, I sat in on many of Mike’s courses and seminars, and he was a regular visitor in my seminars. Mike helped me to understand and apply the perspectives of a social historian in my research; and he frequently commented, often complained, about the infiltration of my sociological perspectives in his work. It was truly a mutually productive and rewarding dialogue that took place over a decade. I will always be indebted to him for enriching my sociological perspectives.
In addition to our scholarly work, Mike and I shared a great many common interests, including the joys of grand parenting, the rewards of teaching, the thrills of outdoor bicycling, the love of Italian cuisine, and the challenges confronting us both as we made the transition to old curmudgeons. We discussed politics on a national and international scale, as well as the more intense local politics of academia. We shared a disdain for the corporatization of higher education. We disagreed strongly on many issues, but our discourse was always civil, and we always learned from one another.
Mike’s death has left a huge vacuum in all our personal and intellectual lives, especially his family and colleagues. From now on, Fridays at noon are a lonely time for me.
As Shakespeare said of Brutus, “The elements were so well mixed in him that Nature might stand up and say to all the world that this was a man.”
Hugh F (Tony) Cline
Adjunct Professor of Sociology and Education
Teachers College, Columbia University
Published: Monday, September 15th, 2008
On July 23, Michael Mahoney GS ’67 died, a few days after he suffered cardiac arrest while swimming in Dillon pool. The death of a colleague always comes as a shock. But Mike, as he was called by everyone from undergraduates to his fellow scholars around the world, was an extraordinarily vital man. It’s still very hard for those of us who knew him for many years to believe that he is gone. (continued)