Dr. Max Merle Mortland

March 30, 1923July 29, 2013

Dr. Max Merle Mortland (Professor Emeritus) East Lansing

Dr. Max Mortland passed away peacefully Saturday, June 29th at the age of 90 in Lansing, Michigan. He was born on a farm in Streator, Illinois to Merle and Mildred on March 30, 1923 and was preceded in death by his older brother Robert John Mortland and younger sister Lois Arnold. During World War II he served in the US Navy in the Pacific Theatre.

After the war, Max returned to the University of Illinois where he earned a Ph.D. in Soil Chemistry. After graduating he joined the University of Wyoming as an Assistant Professor. In 1953 he joined the faculty of Michigan State University where he held the title of Professor of Soil Science and Geology for some thirty years.

Max was always active. Being an avid outdoorsman enjoying the natural beauty of Michigan where he would fish, hunt, canoe and camp with friends and family as often as he could. He also enjoyed the music of the human voice and sang with the Renaissance singers, East Lansing Arts Chorale and the choir at his beloved Unitarian-Universalist Church in East Lansing, MI, as well as playing tennis several times a week right up to his 89th birthday.

Max leaves behind his devoted and loving wife Betty, his daughters Janice, Priscilla and Cynthia; son Jamie and grand children, Stefan and Kelsey. He now embarks on a new journey made confident in this, we trust, with his knowledge of the tremendous help and care he gave to each who had the opportunity to know him.

A service honoring Max’s life will be held at the Unitarian-Universalist Church, 855 Grove, East Lansing, Saturday, July 20, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. Those wishing may make contributions to the Hospice House of Mid-Michigan, P. O. Box 30480, Lansing, MI 48909-9986.

The family is being served by Gorsline Runciman Funeral Homes, East Lansing. On line condolences may be made at:


  • Memorial Service Saturday, July 20, 2013

Dr. Max Merle Mortland

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Mark Spicknall

July 20, 2013

Thinking about Max, a good and kind man who will be missed by many, especially by mom. We are going on a boat tour of the river delta from the local state park this morning, something that I know Max would have loved to do. I think we will sprinkle a few Arizona meteorites along the park trails in Max's memory, and maybe some kids will find them and become as facinated as Max was with nature and life.

July 19, 2013

Max was in charge of the 1988 meeting of The Clay Mineral Society. The meeting was held in Grand Rapids rather than East Lansing and all went well. In addition to organizing and energizing the meeting, what made this meeting stand out from all others was Max and a small group gave a concert of Medieval music, in costume, with Max as the countertenor. In spite of all the responsibilities of organizing the meeting, Max was as calm and pleasant as he always was at any of the many meetings of The Clay Mineral Society through the years. Max's contributions to the discipline of clay mineralogy are many and significant. His influence will extend through future generations of clay mineralogists, and, I'm sure, many others.

Duane (Dewey) Moore
Albuquerque, NM

Michael Brewster

July 15, 2013

My thoughts and prayers go to Max entire family. May he rest in peace.

Patricia Killam

July 10, 2013

An honest and admirable man. My sympathy to his family. I was saddened to see that Max had died.

Cun Liu

July 9, 2013

Dr. Mortland was the most accomplished soil scientist I ever met. I can still remember the time he walked in A525 PSSB to check his old bookshelf and the instruments routinely. My sincerest condolences to his family and may he rest in peace in heaven.

Paul and Anne Rieke

July 8, 2013

So many memories! Our 5th floor Plant and Soil Sciences Building bridge buddy is no longer with us; a man of many talents - internationally recognized scientist, mentor, tennis enthusiast, excellent singer, bridge player, and fellow Illinois soils guy. You will be missed, my friend. May God give comfort and solace to Betty and the family.

Hui Li

July 8, 2013

I have been inspired by Max's great research work since I started my graduate study. I also enjoyed the time with him after I joined MSU. Please accept my condolences. May your father rest peacefully in heaven.

Beth Cafagna

July 8, 2013

My brother and I went to ELHS with you, and our fathers were at MSU at the same time. We send our condolences. It is a great loss now that almost the whole generation that came to MSU after WW II is now gone. It was a dedicated and hard-working group of professors that made MSU what it is today (a great university!) We can both celebrate the lives of our fathers who lived meaningful and long lives of service.
Sincerely, Beth Greer Cafagna (ELHS '67) and Tom Greer (ELHS '66)
our father was Thomas Greer, MSU Humanities Dept.

suzan and bill feraco feraco

July 7, 2013

He was such a Gentleman
So accomplished
So many interests and adventures
Such a role model
Our thoughts are with you at this sad and celebratorial time

Willie Busch

July 5, 2013

May your father and friend rest in peace now after his daily battle to survive........all of you took good care of him and showed your love in many ways..
We are sorry for your loss..Hopefully, you will treasure your memories....

With our Love,
Guy and Willie