Memories of Karl Menger
Phyllis M Kittel, Professor Emeritus, Benedictine University
PhD, Math, IIT 1975
MS, Math, IIT 1970
Menger became a good friend and mentor to me during the last years of his life, when he was no longer teaching at IIT. It began when I invited him to speak at Benedictine University (where I spent 30 years as a professor of math and dean of faculty). Soon after that event he visited my Lincoln Park apartment to meet and talk informally with a few of my undergraduate students. Then he invited me to help him with the translations into English of some of his works. My job was to suggest ways to turn his correct expressions into flowing language! We spent many summer afternoons talking both about his long sentences and the substance of his thinking on a variety of matters, not only mathematics but also ethics and economics. His stories of intimate experiences with the members of the Vienna Circle were fascinating. He never lost his accent when speaking English, a fact he bemoaned, often illustrating this bit of personal failure with the sentence: "My greatest worry is words like work!" He loved to dine in special restaurants, particularly relishing creative cuisine in the most unassuming restaurants as well as the best. Among his favorites were some in Andersonville where he lived at the time. When my six-year-old grandniece visited, Menger prepared a treat for her that he was sure she had never had before: white chocolate. I miss Menger's presence in my life as a dear and caring friend, a friend who generously invested in his friends, a friend who possessed a rare reservoir of energy, a friend who reveled in intelligent conversation and creative enterprise.