In Memoriam: Michael Hakeem

Michael Hakeem, 90, a longtime supporter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and professor emeritus of sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, died on Nov. 2, 2006, at a nursing home in Madison.

Mike served as chair of the Foundation’s Executive Council for many years. He and his wife, Helen, also put in many volunteer hours helping to mail Freethought Today. His column, “The Unreasoning Clergy,” appeared for several years.

He was one of several key state employee-plaintiffs who successfully sued to end Good Friday as a mandatory state holiday in FFRF v. Tommy Thompson (1996).

He was born in Fall River, Mass., on Sept. 5, 1916, to Joseph and Sophia Daghir Hakeem, both immigrants of Syria. He was the youngest of several children. He attended Rhode Island State University, then transferred to Ohio State University, where he earned his undergraduate degree in 1942. He worked for the Illinois state prison system before completing his Ph.D. in Ohio in 1950.

He married Helen Louise Cook on June 8, 1949. Mike published numerous articles on criminology, the penal system and juvenile delinquency before joining the UW-Madison sociology faculty in 1952. The couple lived for 34 years at their much-loved home on Caldy Place, Madison, designed in 1968 by Kaiser & McCloud.

Before retiring in 1983, Mike influenced several generations of students to employ reasoning skills.

His wife, Helen, died at age 82 on Feb. 18, 2003.

When he moved to a nursing home, he donated his collection of more than 12,000 volumes, which he had begun collecting at age 17, to the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

His research focus was “a fascinating view of the proselytization methods used by evangelical religious organizations in America,” according to Friends of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries. The library termed the collection “of major importance.”

Mike loved musicals, was a voracious reader, and had an intense interest in current events and news. Michael had Parkinson’s, congestive heart failure and was confined to a wheelchair after breaking two vertebrae in his neck. He retained his dignity, and his keen intellect, curiosity, memory and sense of humor until the end. Mike requested cremation and no memorial service.

“We will miss Mike very much. He followed Foundation lawsuits and activities, such as our new radio show, despite his increasing frailty, and was greatly concerned about the theocratic direction of our country. One of his last acts was to vote absentee,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, Foundation co-president.

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