In Memoriam: Michael Greenstein

There were many admirable things about Industry Professor of Technology Management and Innovation Michael Greenstein, from his deep commitment to the School of Engineering to the individual attention he devoted to each student. His colleagues have asserted, however, that one of his most amazing traits just might have been his ability to remain cheerful and optimistic — despite reading multiple newspapers from cover to cover each day.

Greenstein, who passed away at the age of 70 earlier this month, came by his interest in current events naturally; he was married for more than four decades to New Jersey State Senator Linda Greenstein and was widely recognized in that realm for sticking by her side during tough campaigns and supporting her efforts as a legislator.

In Brooklyn, however, Greenstein showed similarly steadfast support for his students, first as the director of the master’s program in Manufacturing and Industrial Engineering and later as an integral part of the Graduate Center. In the latter capacity, he personally encouraged scores of businesses to hire our students and traveled the world extolling the virtues of the school to potential applicants (generally on a strict, self-imposed budget, as his colleagues have pointed out, since he disliked wasting resources).

Students knew that they could drop by his office or call him at any time, and his co-workers credit him in large part for the Graduate Center’s exemplary track record of responsiveness. “He had his finger on the pulse of the grad students,” Greenstein’s close friend Sunil Kumar, a former graduate dean at NYU Tandon and now Interim Vice Provost of Graduate and Postdoctoral Programs at NYU Abu Dhabi, recalled. “When we worked together at the Graduate Center he was always thinking of ways to improve operations and planning using his industrial engineering background. As an example, he stressed the importance of data collection and analysis; his favorite advice to me (one of many) was, ‘If you are not keeping score, you are not really in the game.’ This advice and his help with process improvement led to significant operational enhancements and provided a data-driven basis for planning.”

Kumar continued, “Michael always had a well thought out opinion on virtually everything (and would be happy to engage in a conversation about it), was remarkably nonjudgmental and inclusive, and could be counted on to narrate amusing anecdotes and stories. Socially and otherwise, it was always a pleasure to be in his company.” 

When Greenstein retired in the summer of 2017, he was sorely missed by all.

Before joining what was then commonly known as Poly, he had held a position at Lucent Technologies, and he also taught part-time at the College of New Jersey. He was universally respected in each of the milieus in which he moved. As New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney wrote in a public tribute, “He put his skills and abilities to work in a life that was well lived.”

The NYU Tandon community wholeheartedly seconds that sentiment and will long remember the contributions he made to our institution.