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Jean C. Macht, 88, innovative educator, dies

Mrs. Macht was a creative educator who assembled and led one of the nation's first programs to grant a two-year associate's degree in human services.

Jean C. Macht, in 1990s photograph
Jean C. Macht, in 1990s photographRead moreMacht family

Jean C. Macht, 88, of Rydal, an early member of the faculty at Montgomery County Community College and later its dean of social sciences,  died of heart failure on Thursday, Oct. 24, at the New Jersey home of her daughter, Martha Sliwinski.

With a ready wit, an agile mind, and an abiding sense of social justice, Mrs. Macht was a creative educator who assembled and led one of the nation's first programs to grant a two-year associate's degree in human services, an alternative to a four-year degree in social work.

In the 1970s, many mental hospitals were closing and "deinstitutionalizing," discharging clients into the community. Mrs. Macht helped spearhead new programs to find residences for such clients and to educate staff to run them. In many instances, she helped people who had faced troubles of their own to get on their feet and assist others.

"It was unusual to recruit people who had been in hospitals and who had been in drug and alcohol treatment programs … but who had never had a pathway to get credentialed to earn a living," a colleague, Mary Louise Whitehill, a professor of psychology and human services at the college, said Tuesday.

Mrs. Macht went on to become the president of the National Organization of Human Service Educators, which she helped found in 1975. Four years later, she helped establish the Council for Standards of Human Services Education, serving as its vice president, treasurer, and then president. She led many accreditation teams for the council.

Mrs. Macht, who joined the college faculty in 1968, taught and administered at the college for  the following three decades. In its first year, a church and a funeral home, among other locations, served as her classrooms before the college established its campus in Blue Bell. The college, founded in 1964, now has more than 30,000 alumni.  Most of those enrolled in its human services department go on to earn four-year degrees, Whitehill said.

Born in Boston, Mrs. Macht was raised in Newton, Winthrop and Malden, Mass, where her father was the Methodist minister in each town.  Among her acquaintances in those years was a girl close in age by the name of Sylvia Plath.

Mrs. Macht graduated from Stoneleigh Burnham, a private high school in Greenfield, Mass., and attended Duke University for two years, dropping out when she married. She returned to college years 15 years later, as a so-called nontraditional student at a time when that was unusual for a woman, earning a bachelor's degree from Beaver College — now Arcadia University —  and a master's degree from Temple University.

After her retirement from MCCC, she worked for 15 years as a designer and draftsperson at Paul Macht Architects, the firm of her son in Montgomery County.

Along with being an educator, she was a decorator, gardener, seamstress, and writer.

Her husband, Stephen Fineman, a social worker who for many years was an adjunct professor at MCCC, died in 2013.

In addition to her son and daughter,  she is survived by another daughter, Rebecca J. Gorman; her former husband, Paul E. Macht Sr.; seven grandchildren; and two great-granddaughters.

A visitation and memorial is to be held Friday, Nov. 23, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Wetzel & Son Funeral Home, 501 Easton Rd., Willow Grove.

Memorial contributions may be directed to the Jean Macht Scholarship at Montgomery County Community College Foundation, 340 DeKalb Pike, Blue Bell, Pa. 19422. Checks may be made out to "MCCC Foundation."