Michael Masch, financial and operations manager for Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and several colleges and universities, died Feb. 7 in Washington, D.C. He was 70.
Masch served as Pennsylvania’s secretary of budget and administration under former Gov. Ed Rendell from 2003 to 2008. Prior to that, he was Philadelphia’s budget director when Rendell was mayor. He also served as the chief financial officer of the School District of Philadelphia from 2008 to 2012, and as a senior policy analyst for the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.
Speaking at Masch’s virtual memorial service, Rendell said Masch helped cut operating costs and increase efficiency at a time when Philadelphia was facing a devastating deficit, shedding jobs and losing businesses. He described his colleague as a brilliant public servant, not only because of his financial wizardry or public speaking skills, but because he understood what was at stake.
“Michael never forgot that we weren’t playing a game with numbers, or playing a game with statistics. We were playing in a battle that made people’s lives better, that actually mattered,” he said.
Masch also worked as vice president for budget and management at the University of Pennsylvania and vice president for finance and as chief financial officer at Manhattan College. He had been the senior vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer at Howard University since 2015.
“Mike Masch ran towards fires with a heart full of love,” Howard President Wayne A. I. Frederick said at the memorial. “He saw the most difficult things that needed to be fixed, and attempted to fix them. And he attempted to do that in a selfless manner for the good of others.”
Born Oct. 14, 1950, Masch was adopted as a child and raised in a tight-knit Jewish community in Southwest Philadelphia. Social life revolved around Beth Am Israel synagogue, whose leaders shaped Masch’s love for Judaism.
He graduated from Central High School in 1968 and attended Temple University, where he met his future wife, Rachel Falkove. They both realized they wanted to pursue a Jewish life that was more focused on social justice than the postwar synagogues of their childhoods had been. Masch was inspired by the Black Panthers and left-wing politics, and Falkove was involved with the environmental movement.
“By the time he got to college, he was very taken with the civil rights movement and the antiwar movement,” she said. “He was trying to synthesize Jewish life with what was going on in our political world.”
He studied at Temple for four years as an urban studies major and dropped out just before graduation. He later earned a master’s degree in government and public administration from the Fels Institute of Government at Penn thanks to significant professional experience.
He entered public life with a job on the technical staff of Philadelphia City Council before working for Rendell. Later, he helped create the Philly Phlash transit line — named after the Flash, one of his favorite DC Comics characters.
As CFO of the city’s school district, he helped restore it to balanced and surplus budgets from 2003 to 2007, although he was criticized for failing to overcome state budget cuts during the recession in 2010.
He eliminated state deficits, produced surpluses and increased state funding for Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts as secretary of budget and administration. He created the Pennsylvania Office of Performance Improvement to measure and improve performance of state agencies in
He was passionate about creating new forms of Jewish community and worship, writing for the Jewish Exponent and becoming one of the founders of the Germantown Minyan. The group’s two offshoots, Dorshei Derekh and Minyan Masorti, are still active at the Germantown Jewish Centre.
Friends and family knew he was a big fan of comic books and superheroes, loved a good party and approached everything with exuberance.
“He danced the hardest, he sang the loudest and watched the junkiest movies,” Falkove said. “He had a good time. He solved really big problems, and he enjoyed it.”