Dr. Seymour J. Mandelbaum, professor emeritus of city and regional planning at PennDesign, passed away January 23, 2013, of Parkinson's disease at age 77.
A distinguished urban historian, Dr. Mandelbaum taught briefly at Carnegie Institute of Technology and Penn's Annenberg School for Communication in 1965 before joining PennDesign in 1967. He served as chair of the city planning doctoral program from 1977 to 1989, and as department chair from 1987 through 1989. His courses ranged across the fields of planning theory, communication policy and planning, international comparative planning, community design and urban history. He became emeritus in 2004.
As Dr. John Landis, chairman of PennDesign's city and regional planning programs, described in his email to planning faculty, Dr. Mandelbaum "was one of the giants of the planning field, who made major contributions to planning theory, ethics and doctoral education. He inspired generations of students to view planning as a moral enterprise as much as a technical problem-solving effort. He was primarily interested in the formation and development of human communities, the moral orders which shape these communities, and the flows of individuals and information through them." His most recent research centered on two complementary themes: planning intelligence and the democratization of access to knowledge.
Dr. Eugenie Birch, Lawrence C. Nussdorf Professor of Urban Research and Education in the department of city and regional planning and co-director of the Penn Institute for Urban Research, reflected that "for the nearly four decades that Seymour Mandelbaum was at PennDesign, he was a leading light to his students, his colleagues at Penn and in the larger world of the profession. With his thoughtful, probing questions-not pronouncements, but questions-he made us pause. We paused because he made us think about the deeper values of our field, because he insisted that we too were expressing ourselves clearly and intentionally and because he cared deeply about the past, present and future of city and regional planning."
Dr. Mandelbaum also served for many years on the Faculty Senate's Committee on Open Expression and the Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility. He understood that great institutions need great stewards able to connect day-to-day business to higher aspirations.
An active writer, Dr. Mandelbaum was a past editor of Explorations in Planning Theory, and he served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Planning Education, the Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, The Responsive Community, The Journal of Planning Literature and Town Planning Review. His most recent book, Open Moral Communities, deals with a communitarian sensibility and the ways in which policy and planning arguments are set within myths of community.
Born in Chicago and raised in New York, Dr. Mandelbaum earned his bachelor's degree from Columbia University and his PhD in history from Princeton University.
Dr. Mandelbaum is survived by his wife, Dorothy; sons, David and Judah; daughter, Betsy; a sister; and six grandchildren.
Contributions may be made to the Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders
Center, University of Pennsylvania, 330 S. Ninth St., Philadelphia, PA 19107, or
to the National Parkinson Foundation, 1501 N.W. Ninth Ave., Miami, FL 33136.