Not about power and ego
A tribute to the legacy of Dr. Lawrence Mink
Published: Thursday, September 26, 2013
Updated: Sunday, September 29, 2013 18:09
The Arkansas State University and Jonesboro communities were saddened by the untimely death of Dr. Lawrence Mink, Emeritus Professor of Physics, on August 17, 2013. I would like to take this opportunity to fondly remember him.
I first knew Dr. Mink as a physics major at ASU from 1974-1978. He was one of three physics professors, and I had him as an instructor in numerous classes.
He and Dr. Hal McCloud, another physics professor and my academic advisor, were the two most influential people in my undergraduate education.
Dr. Mink was an excellent teacher. He had a way of teaching such that abstract concepts could be visualized. He did a great job in presenting mathematical underpinnings of physics.
For example, when I took Electromagnetic Theory, we spent two weeks solidifying the vector calculus required in the course.
I still remember that the “divergence of the curl” and the “curl of the gradient” both equal zero because he had us prove these rigorously on paper. He had, and expected students to exemplify, high standards, both academically and personally.
He included personal anecdotes in his teaching. These reflected his values and faith.
Once in the course, Astronomy, a student asked him whether he thought that God had “really” created and controlled the universe.
Dr. Mink’s reply began with a statement that he was a Christian and church member. Then he expounded and said basically, “Yes”.
Dr. Mink was a nice and kind person. This is a great compliment, and he certainly deserves it. He was friendly, pleasant, and generous.
In the autumn of 1977 when I should have already been applying to graduate schools (but had not yet done so), he prompted me, so that I would not be too late to qualify for a graduate assistantship.
While doing so, I asked several professors to write and submit the required letters of recommendation. Dr. Mink was the first to get them submitted.
His letters played a pivotal role in my being accepted into several graduate programs and ultimately attending the University of Missouri-Rolla (now the Missouri University of Science and Technology) at which I obtained a master degree in electrical engineering in 1980 and a Ph.D. in such in 1983.
I got to know Dr. Mink better after returning to ASU as a faculty member in 1982. I and his colleague, Dr. Hal McCloud, established a collaborative research program in semiconductor materials.
Since I did not have a research laboratory, we used a physics laboratory. Dr. Mink was cooperative and did not try to prevent us from using this space, although in a sense, it was taken from him.
Dr. Mink also trained me on the scanning electron microscope. He graciously provided several sessions of several hours each, asking for nothing in-return.
Dr. Mink and I had meaningful conversations about miscellaneous issues, both professional and private. I remember one during which he offered advice on how to best raise my two sons who were still of elementary school/preschool age.
His advice was poignant, and I hope that I followed it as my sons grew into fine young men.
Dr. Mink was a scholar in the fullest sense of the word.
He was extremely well-read, and conversant in just about any topic, scientific or not. His logic and arguments were sound and convincing.
Although not an Arkansas native, he was none-the-less devoted to Arkansas State University.
He served in many service roles throughout his years here (1966-2000), for example, helping with the Northeast Arkansas Regional Science Fair.
He was a frequent ASU committee member.
He became a “go-to person” when technical advice was needed on-campus.
Although he did not always see eye-to-eye with everybody about everything, he was well respected and liked. That is, he could “agree to disagree”, but with civility, respect, and commitment.
Dr. Mink has been missed by the ASU community since his retirement in 2000.
I ran into him occasionally out in the city, say at stores and restaurants, and had brief conversations with him.
I think that he missed ASU, but he also seemed to be enjoying his retirement and spending more time with his wife and family.
I recall my distress a few weeks ago when I heard that he was ill and in the hospital. We hoped and prayed that his recovery would be rapid and complete.
However, his passing is an opportunity to reflect upon what really matters in a person’s legacy.
It is not wealth and possessions. It is not power and ego. It is not even how many titles or degrees accompany a person’s name.
Instead, it is character, integrity, humility, faithfulness, righteousness, wisdom, kindness, and service.
Dr. Mink exemplified all of these.
In fact, his humility led him to request that no elaborate funeral services be held for him, but only a brief memorial service immediately following regular Sunday morning worship services at his church.
At this memorial, the minister also commented about his humility and commitment to his faith.
There is much more that could be said about Dr. Lawrence Mink.
However, let me conclude with a huge thanks to him for his mentorship and friendship throughout the years and my commitment to try to follow his example.
Goodbye, Dr. Mink. We miss you and thank you.
Dr. Robert Engelken
Prof. of Electrical Engineering
Arkansas State University