Melvin Monroe Leiman

December 30, 1926 - November 14, 2020

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Melvin Monroe Leiman, beloved father, grandfather, brother, husband, comrade, scholar and mentor, passed away on November 14 of Parkinson’s Disease. He was 93.

Mel was born in the Bronx, New York, on December 30, 1926, to Max Leiman and Leah Haberman Leiman. Orphaned at a young age, he was raised by his aunt and uncle, Al and Molly Wolfe.

Mel was an active participant in many important moments of U.S. history, from World War II to the Civil Rights Movement to Vietnam War protests. While still in his teens, he worked as a physicist’s assistant on the Manhattan Project. In the closing months of World War II, he served in the Navy decommissioning ships.

He attended Ohio State University, where he was on the varsity track team, continuing his lifelong love of running and athletics. Though his initial plan was to become a physicist, he became an economist instead, earning a doctorate from Columbia University.

A proud Marxist, Mel’s book, The Political Economy of Racism (Pluto Press 1993), became a classic in the field. He was affiliated with several socialist organizations, and continued to be politically active until the last years of his life.

He taught political economy, economics and political science for many years at the State University of New York at Binghamton, where he served as a mentor to many graduate students from a variety of disciplines. During the Vietnam War protests, he was a beacon guiding student activists. Mel also taught at Aarhus University in Denmark and Central European University in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Though a longtime resident of Binghamton, New York, where he lived with his wife, Ellen Van Dusen, and two daughters, Kirsten and Erika, Mel and his family delighted in travel. This especially allowed him to connect with the many friendships he maintained, from South Africa to Israel, from Greece to the British Isles and Denmark.

In his retirement, he and Ellie lived in the village of St. Cezaire de Gauzignon in southern France. After her death he moved to the Pacific Northwest of the U.S., where he met and married Carol Shakow, a Clinical Social Worker. They made their home in Bainbridge Island, where he continued to teach, write, and mentor others of all ages.

Mel was curious, a thinker, and a steadfast and sensitive friend to many. He was a voracious reader and scholar of history, political movements and Marxist economics, and he was an archival source of theory and knowledge among the many discussion groups in which he participated. He was also curious about a spectrum of topics from art, music, literature, film and current events to the activities and achievements of his ex-students, friends and acquaintances. He was also a loving father, grandfather, brother, and husband.

Mel is survived by his wife, Carol; his sisters, Carole Abel of New York and Marlene Koslan of Clermont, Florida; his daughters, Erika Leiman of St. Cesaire de Gauzignan and Kirsten Vorobyov of Copenhagen; his stepchildren, Aaron Shakow of Cambridge, Massachusetts and Miriam Shakow of Narberth, Pennsylvania; and his grandchildren, Chloee, Hannah, Misha, Luka, Natalya, Leo, Jacob, and Theo.

Donations in Mel’s memory may be made to:

1) Retinostop (French Foundation providing research and support for children with retinoblastoma): https://www.helloasso.com/assocations/retnostop/formulaires/1/widget/en

2) Freedom Socialist Party: https://socialism.com/donate/

3) The Democracy Project: https://democracycollaborative.org/gar-alperovitz

4) Chavurat Shir Hayam Tikkun Olam Fund: cay.vandervelde@gmail.com

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