Professor remembered for innovative service to students, developing communities

Four people hold two solar panels
Dr. Michael MacCarthy, left, helps install solar panels at Capricorn Sound Studios in 2019.

Dr. Michael MacCarthy, associate professor of environmental and civil engineering and director of the engineering for development program at Mercer University, died Oct. 22 while on sabbatical in Denver.

Dr. Michael MacCarthy

In addition to teaching in the School of Engineering, Dr. MacCarthy led the Cecil Day Family Center for International Groundwater Innovation, which was established last year to accelerate efforts through Mercer On Mission and the School of Engineering to provide access to clean water to the world’s most water-poor communities.

Dr. MacCarthy’s “passion, innovation and skill in bringing access to clean water has served and saved thousands of people around the world,” Mercer President William D. Underwood said in an email to the University community. “Confidence in his extraordinary abilities led the Day Family Foundation to give $1 million toward his development of new technologies that would extend the reach of his efforts to tens of millions of people.

“Mike was a giant of a man, not only in physical stature, but also in his devotion to his work, his dedication to his students, his collegiality with faculty and staff, and his abiding commitment to making clean water available to all people.”

A campus memorial service is being planned for later this semester.

Dr. MacCarthy had 25 years of experience in engineering and international development. In 2014, he joined the faculty at Mercer, where he taught courses in engineering for development, groundwater hydrology, hydraulics, green engineering and engineering design.

His research and service focused on four areas: water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) for developing communities; green engineering; the humanitarian-development nexus, working with partners to find solutions to complex emergency and humanitarian issues; and low-cost technologies. He led Mercer On Mission programs in the Dominican Republic and Madagascar that focused on these areas.

He was an associate editor and member of the editorial board for Hydrogeology Journal, a past recipient of Mercer’s Innovations in Teaching Award and an adviser for the School of Engineering’s Peace Corps Prep Program. In 2019, he received the American Society for Engineering Education Southeastern Section Outstanding New Faculty Research Award.

Dr. MacCarthy “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,” the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors posted on its website following Dr. MacCarthy’s death. “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.”


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Jennifer Falk is director of digital communications at Mercer. She edits and writes feature stories for The Den and examines web data and analytics to drive content decisions. She also creates and supervises the creation of content for primary University web pages and e-newsletters.