In Memory of Economics Professor Mordechai (Max) Kreinin

February 20, 2018 - Tim Vogelsang, Economics Department Chair

The Economics Department and the College of Social Science at Michigan State University lost a beloved and long-time faculty member, Max Kreinin, on February 8, 2018. Max was born on January 20, 1930 in Rishon Lezlon Israel and joined the Economics Department at MSU in 1957 after receiving a PhD in Economics from the University of Michigan. Max spent his entire 57 year academic career at MSU, retiring in 2015. He remained an active researcher during his retirement and regularly spent time in Marshall-Adams Hall continuing his work on international economics. He would often would stop by my office to see how things were going and there was always a smile on his face.

Max was an icon of the department and university. He was a prolific researcher with over 200 published articles and many books including a classic textbook on international economics. Max was known for his seminal contributions to both international trade and international finance – a rare example of breadth within international economics. Consult this collected volume for details on Max’s research:

While Max’s scholarly contributions were numerous and substantial, his influence on the thousands of undergraduates and scores of PhD students was something Max valued most as his job as a professor. He was known for using Bible stories, telling corny jokes and singing songs while explaining subtle and difficult concepts to undergraduates in his large sections of EC340, International Economics and EC 202, Introduction to Macroeconomics. Max took his greatest pride in his PhD students and he supervised the writing of dozens of dissertations. Max’s PhD students loved him for the time he gave them, the good advice and the high expectations he set for their work.

Bob Brusca, PhD ‘77, recalls that: “Max was tough – he had exacting standards. Max was fair. Max loved to laugh, but his classroom was always no-nonsense. He was a very good teacher. His accent was the most soothing thing I have ever heard. He made the word ‘relatively’ take on an ethereal quality – and you use that word a lot in international economics. I could listen to him lecture all day long. He took his duties to his graduate students very seriously. The advice he gave me upon graduation was excellent.  He prepared me to work in the field where I continue to work after 40 years. What more could a student ask for?”

Jorge Gonzalez, PhD ‘89, considered Max a friend: “Max was my Ph.D. advisor and a great mentor and friend throughout my career. He opened doors in the profession for me and he was there when I was inaugurated as president of Kalamazoo College in 2016. I will miss his smile and sense of humor, and his keen understanding of the economy and the political system. I was always in awe when I saw him make a presentation. He had the ability to explain very complex issues in a remarkably understandable way. That is the mark of a truly inspiring professor.”

Barbara Rall Lowrey, PhD ’70, credits Max for inspiring her to pursue a PhD in economics: “Dr. Kreinin’s undergraduate international economics course prompted me to switch my major from political science to economics and his research interests made me return to MSU to work on my doctorate. His graduate students were of utmost concern to him; he provided guidance in choosing dissertation topics and in finding resources to help his students successfully complete a dissertation. He would respond immediately to thorny questions and would review and return drafts within a day or two. Working with Max was life-affirming and it made all the difference in my professional life to have had him as my major professor.”

Michael Plummer, PhD ’88, edited a Festschrift  in 2004 in honor of Max: “In the Foreword to Max’s Festschrift, Empirical Methods in International Trade, which I had the honor to edit, Jagdish Bhagwati of Columbia University wrote ‘Max Kreinin, as all his friends call him, is one of the most creative and influential international economists of his generation.’ But Max was much more than that. To his undergraduate students, he was a brilliant gateway to economic policy analysis and making sense of the world of economics. To his graduate students—and in particular those like me who wrote their doctoral dissertation under him—Max was a shining example of what an academic should be. To his economic colleagues around the world, he was a fountain of clever, innovative ideas that contributed significantly to the economics profession. He was also the source of many of their best jokes.”

The Economics Department will not be the same without Max’s presence and influence. We thank his family for sharing him with us for 60 years. Max was a prominent scholar, an influential teacher and a valued colleague. He will be missed.

For more on Max’s brilliance, read “Remembering Max,” by Bob Goodman.