OBITUARY

Carl Max Kortepeter

May 27, 1928October 8, 2021

Carl “Max” Kortepeter concluded his 93-year adventure on earth on Friday, October 8, 2021. He enjoyed a full life of teaching, travel, learning, entertaining, and occasional mischief. A true “Renaissance Man,” he had a zest for life like no other. He leaves behind a legacy of impact on his former students, family, and friends.

Max was born in Southport, Indiana, in 1928, as the eldest of five children. His father, Carl Frederick Kortepeter went to night school to become a civil engineer. His mother, Olive Derbyshire Kortepeter worked at Lilly Pharmaceuticals and raised the children. The family emphasized a strong work ethic, community, and education. Max spent some of his youth working on his grandparents’ farm. Growing up during World War II and the Great Depression left a lasting impression on him as the eldest son, which frequently placed him in a family leadership role.

Max attended Tech High School where he excelled in academics and leadership, and he became the senior class president. As a high school senior, he received a scholarship to Harvard University where he graduated with a BA in American Studies. Upon graduation, he mistakenly applied for a job in the “Near” East, thinking it was a job on the East coast. Instead, the job took him to Istanbul, Turkey, where he taught biology at Robert College, and fell in love with the Turkish people and other cultures in the Middle East. It was this experience that channeled his future career.

He subsequently obtained a masters in Islamic Studies at McGill University and a PhD in Middle East History from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He became an Ottoman scholar – the subject of his thesis, “Ottoman Imperialism During the Reformation: Europe and the Caucasus” later became his first book. He wrote or edited numerous other books on the Middle East.

Along the way, Max also served over eight years (active and reserve) in both the Army, reaching the rank of Master Sergeant, and as a First Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. He served in military intelligence in Oberammergau, in post-World War II Germany. During a summer stint at the University of Michigan, he met Cynthia Ann King on a blind date (she was his friend’s date). The next time out, he and his friend switched dates. He and Cynthia were married in 1957 and enjoyed 62 years of marriage.

Professor Kortepeter spent three decades at New York University teaching about the Middle East, where he stayed until retiring as an Emeritus Professor, and he held faculty appointments at the University of Toronto and Princeton University. Max was loved by his students, and he was notorious for taking them out to a belly dance restaurant at the end of each semester to supplement their education on Middle East culture.

As a couple, Max and Cynthia loved to travel and took their children with them for several sabbatical years in Turkey and Egypt. Max loved foreign languages and cultures and was most in his element in a coffee shop overseas practicing his language skills or discussing politics with friends, colleagues, or strangers. He was fluent in German, Turkish, and Arabic, and had a good working knowledge of Russian and French. He lectured around the world, often in his adopted languages. When not traveling, at different times, the couple lived in Belle Mead, New Jersey, Canada, and a renovated an old farmhouse in the Adirondack Mountains, in New York, where they eventually retired.

Max loved people and he was the life of any party. During his days at NYU, Max and Cynthia would host large gatherings for his colleagues and students, where guests wore their cultural garb, listened to music, and dined on hummus, kofta, and boereks. Max loved to dance and sing, and once said that when he died, he would rather people held a party rather than a funeral to celebrate his life. The party won’t be the same without him.

Max’s wife, Cynthia predeceased him in 2019. He is survived by his brother Paul and sister Martha (Schmidt), his six children, Karl, Paul, Mark, Erica (Ragan), Adam, and Serena (Baskin), 21 grandchildren, and an “adopted son,” Mustafa Demirkaya. The funeral service will be held at 2:30 pm Sunday, October 17 at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church of Carmel, Indiana. In lieu of flowers, Max requested donations be sent to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, or the Nature Conservancy.

“He prayeth best, who loveth best All things both great and small; For the dear God who loveth us, He made and loveth all.” - Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

A memorial service for Max will be held Sunday, October 17, 2021 at 2:30 PM at St. Christopher's Episcopal Church, 1402 W. Main Street, Carmel, IN 46032.

Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at www.leppertmortuarynora.com for the Kortepeter family.

Services

  • Memorial Service

    Sunday, October 17, 2021

Memories

Carl Max Kortepeter

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Jane Seeburger

October 14, 2021

Carl Max Kortepeter was a kind, humorous man . I remember very well having such positive parent teacher conferences with him on many occasions . He was a great , well educated man and my thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

Deborah Rotman

October 13, 2021

Sam and I had been married exactly a year when we moved into an apartment in the Kortepeter’s house. We had answered Max’s ad in the local paper as he and Cynthia were looking for tenants.

We warned him that we were expecting a baby.

“Great! We just had our 6th child! Little Serena,” he cooed.

With trepidation we added, “And we have a grand piano which Sam will be practicing a lot since he’s a concert pianist.”

“Wonderful!” was Max’s reply. “You can give the older children piano lessons,” which Sam did.

We lived in their house for less than 2 years, but long enough to accumulate warm and lasting memories of Max and Cynthia and their remarkable family.

We always looked forward to the annual Christmas letter that Max wrote, recounting their family’s adventures year by year.

How privileged we were to be part of the Kortepeter family, if only for a short time.

Max, you will be greatly missed.

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY

Biography

Carl “Max” Kortepeter concluded his 93-year adventure on earth on Friday, October 8, 2021. He enjoyed a full life of teaching, travel, learning, entertaining, and occasional mischief. A true “Renaissance Man,” he had a zest for life like no other. He leaves behind a legacy of impact on his former students, family, and friends.

Max was born in Southport, Indiana, in 1928, as the eldest of five children. His father, Carl Frederick Kortepeter went to night school to become a civil engineer. His mother, Olive Derbyshire Kortepeter worked at Lilly Pharmaceuticals and raised the children. The family emphasized a strong work ethic, community, and education. Max spent some of his youth working on his grandparents’ farm. Growing up during World War II and the Great Depression left a lasting impression on him as the eldest son, which frequently placed him in a family leadership role.

Max attended Tech High School where he excelled in academics and leadership, and he became the senior class president. As a high school senior, he received a scholarship to Harvard University where he graduated with a BA in American Studies. Upon graduation, he mistakenly applied for a job in the “Near” East, thinking it was a job on the East coast. Instead, the job took him to Istanbul, Turkey, where he taught biology at Robert College, and fell in love with the Turkish people and other cultures in the Middle East. It was this experience that channeled his future career.

He subsequently obtained a masters in Islamic Studies at McGill University and a PhD in Middle East History from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He became an Ottoman scholar – the subject of his thesis, “Ottoman Imperialism During the Reformation: Europe and the Caucasus” later became his first book. He wrote or edited numerous other books on the Middle East.

Along the way, Max also served over eight years (active and reserve) in both the Army, reaching the rank of Master Sergeant, and as a First Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. He served in military intelligence in Oberammergau, in post-World War II Germany. During a summer stint at the University of Michigan, he met Cynthia Ann King on a blind date (she was his friend’s date). The next time out, he and his friend switched dates. He and Cynthia were married in 1957 and enjoyed 62 years of marriage.

Professor Kortepeter spent three decades at New York University teaching about the Middle East, where he stayed until retiring as an Emeritus Professor, and he held faculty appointments at the University of Toronto and Princeton University. Max was loved by his students, and he was notorious for taking them out to a belly dance restaurant at the end of each semester to supplement their education on Middle East culture.

As a couple, Max and Cynthia loved to travel and took their children with them for several sabbatical years in Turkey and Egypt. Max loved foreign languages and cultures and was most in his element in a coffee shop overseas practicing his language skills or discussing politics with friends, colleagues, or strangers. He was fluent in German, Turkish, and Arabic, and had a good working knowledge of Russian and French. He lectured around the world, often in his adopted languages. When not traveling, at different times, the couple lived in Belle Mead, New Jersey, Canada, and a renovated an old farmhouse in the Adirondack Mountains, in New York, where they eventually retired.

Max loved people and he was the life of any party. During his days at NYU, Max and Cynthia would host large gatherings for his colleagues and students, where guests wore their cultural garb, listened to music, and dined on hummus, kofta, and boereks. Max loved to dance and sing, and once said that when he died, he would rather people held a party rather than a funeral to celebrate his life. The party won’t be the same without him.

Max’s wife, Cynthia predeceased him in 2019. He is survived by his brother Paul and sister Martha (Schmidt), his six children, Karl, Paul, Mark, Erica (Ragan), Adam, and Serena (Baskin), 21 grandchildren, and an “adopted son,” Mustafa Demirkaya. The funeral service will be held at 2:30 pm Sunday, October 17 at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church of Carmel, Indiana. In lieu of flowers, Max requested donations be sent to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, or the Nature Conservancy.

“He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.”
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

A memorial service for Max will be held Sunday, October 17, 2021 at 2:30 PM at St. Christopher's Episcopal Church, 1402 W. Main Street, Carmel, IN 46032.

Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at www.leppertmortuarynora.com for the Kortepeter family.