In Memoriam: Dr. Michael MacCarthy

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

It is with great sadness we report the sudden passing of Dr. Michael MacCarthy.  Mike was an Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental & Civil Engineering at Mercer University (Macon, GA) and also a Special Graduate Faculty at the University of Guelph (Canada). He was the epitome of a new breed of engineering educator; devoted to education and applied research that served his students and profession, but most importantly, residents of underserved communities. He thought of serving others every day of his life, and instilled that value with the many students he taught, mentored, and inspired over his too-short academic career.

At Mercer, Mike was the Peace Corps Prep Advisor and also served as Program Director for Mercer’s Engineering for Development Program.  That program is focused on innovating sustainable solutions for people and the planet, both internationally and domestically, through education, service, and applied research.  Mike was also Director of the recently created Cecil Day Family Center for International Groundwater Innovation. That new center (led by Mike) was formed to accelerate efforts in the Mercer on Mission program and the School of Engineering to provide access to safe water to the world’s most water-poor communities. Initially the Center was focused on providing safe water in the Dominican Republic, Madagascar, and Uganda.

Mike had accomplished so much in his professional career.  His research and service interests spanned low cost groundwater development, self supply, environmental sanitation, energy poverty,  and social change.  When traveling with him, he could converse with a taxi driver or a resident in either French or Spanish.  He was an Associate Editor & Member of the Editorial Board for the Hydrogeology Journal (International Association of Hydrogeologists).  In 2019 he received the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Southeastern Section’s Outstanding New Faculty Research Award. At the time of this award, Dr. Laura Lackey, Dean of Mercer’s School of Engineering commented that “Dr. MacCarthy’s passion for development-related research has piqued the interest of many of our students. He spends numerous hours teaching students research methods, data collection, analysis and communication skills. The success of his students verifies his unique ability to enthuse and engage young people in meaningful research experiences.”

Mike obtained his BSc in Engineering (Civil specialty, Environmental Science & Engineering minor) from Colorado School of Mines.   He then served as an environmental and water resources engineer in Cameroon with the U.S. Peace Corps. After that he worked a short while as an engineering consultant in the U.S.; however, he quickly returned to his professional calling as a humanitarian/development engineer. Mike went on to obtain his  MSc in Engineering for Development from the University of Southampton (England) where his research was on development of the rope pump in Maputaland, South Africa.  He then served in various Sub-Saharan African countries, working as an engineer for GOAL Ireland in the Democratic Republic of Congo and with Oxfam in Mali. He followed that with receiving a PhD in Civil Engineering (Water Resources specialty) from the University of South Florida along with a  Graduate Certificate in Social Marketing and Public Health.  For his PhD, he researched issues of self supply and groundwater that were integrated with social marketing and had field components of his research in Madagascar and Bolivia.  While a PhD student he taught and mentored a large number of students who went on to careers in the humanitarian/development sectors.

Michael had been a professor at Mercer University since 2014.  He touched so many students during his time there, in the classroom, and in the field working with disadvantaged communities in Georgia, the Caribbean, and Sub-Saharan Africa.  The professional relationship he developed with the G360 Institute for Groundwater Research at the University of Guelph allowed his students to further explore fractured-rock and applied groundwater research and the applications in the humanitarian/development sector.  His students, colleagues, friends, and family, and especially the world, will miss him greatly.