Lea Mintz inspires with lifelong devotion to education

Lea Mintz.

Lea Mintz.

This Thursday, residents of the Meadow Ridge senior living community will have their 11th chance to take Norwalk Community College courses in-house, thanks to the work of one dedicated woman, Lea Mintz.

The program offered by Meadow Ridge is singular, and the woman behind the program, who lives in Redding, embodies the philosophy that learning is a lifelong process.

Mintz has dedicated her life to the pursuit of knowledge, and at 90 years old, continues her dedication to education through this program. Residents have the option to choose from three different courses taught by Norwalk Community College professors; this semester, one course, Conversations about Higher Education, is facilitated by the president of the college, Dr. David Levinson, and interim Academic Dean Dr. Vanessa Morest.

“I have always been very interested in education,” said Mintz. “My mother came over from Poland as a young woman and came to Philadelphia, worked as a maid in somebody’s house in order to get an education.”

Her mother was the first female periodontist in the state of New Jersey. Her father immigrated from Russia, graduated from NYU law school, and worked as a labor lawyer.

“The premise of importance in my growing up was an education,” she said. “I’ve always felt very strongly about that. I always wanted to be a lawyer and so did my husband, but World War II intervened,” she said.

Mintz and her husband.

Mintz and her husband.

In 1942 Mintz met her husband at the University of Michigan, and she put her own formal education on hold to marry Lewis Mintz, a naval officer, in July 1944.

“He graduated and I had finished my second year,” Mintz said. “As it turned out, we could not be together under these circumstances if I was in Michigan in Ann Arbor and he was stationed in San Diego.”

Mintz said her parents were disappointed that she didn’t complete her degree.

“I promised my parents I would go back, and I did, 30 years later.”

As a woman who has embraced the importance of community, Mintz stayed active as a volunteer and community leader. A Norwalk resident for more than 60 years, she served on many boards and dedicated her life to service.

She served on the Norwalk Board of Education, the Connecticut Education Council, the Greater Norwalk Chamber of Commerce, and the board of directors of the United Way of Norwalk & Wilton.

“I was president of every women’s organization in Norwalk, I was the justice of the peace for 45 years, I married about 200 people during that time and held small claims court in my living room!”

She described how her time working in the community was an education in and of itself.

“I believe being busy is the most important thing in the world, and to give back,” Mintz said. Committed to pursuing her degree, she fulfilled her promise to her parents when her youngest son graduated from high school. She received her degree in political science from the University of Bridgeport in 1976, graduating magna cum laude.

Recognizing the influence education played in her life and shaped by the years dedicated to the service of others, Mintz was involved with Norwalk Community College since its inception and with the Friends of Norwalk Community College, now known as the NCC Foundation.

“I have always said, Norwalk Community College is my fourth child,” Mintz said of her involvement with the founding of NCC. “I have devoted a great deal of my life toward it.”

Mintz shared with The Pilot a letter she received from Sen. Richard Blumenthal for her 90th birthday. He congratulated her and thanked her for her many years of service to the community and her dedication to higher education through her involvement in Norwalk Community College.

The Norwalk Community College Foundation is the nonprofit organization that raises money to offer NCC students scholarships and fund programs.

When her husband passed away in 1996, she donated funds in her husband’s name for the establishment of a scholarship, the Lewis R. Mintz scholarship.

“I wanted to do something that would be worthwhile, so I gave … to the scholarship committee, for a scholarship in his name,” said Mintz.

This was an opportunity for her to continue giving back to the community she worked so hard to shape.

Mintz moved to Meadow Ridge five years ago and couldn’t remain idle for long before she went back to work.

“I was here maybe two days. I moved on a Saturday and went down for brunch on a Sunday, and the residents here are some of the most highly educated, highly intelligent group of people I have ever met,” Mintz said of her time at Meadow Ridge. “I thought, why can’t I have the college here?”

Mintz wanted to offer other Meadow Ridge residents the opportunity to continue learning into retirement. She facilitated the establishment of courses at Meadow Ridge in a partnership that is now in its 11th semester.

Courses are $50 per class, and the money goes to pay the professors.

This semester the fee for the course taught by NCC President Dr. David Levinson and interim Academic Dean Dr. Vanessa Morest will be donated to the NCC Foundation.

“It is a remarkable situation. It’s the best non-paying job I have ever had!” said Mintz.

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