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Home » Campus News Latest » Obituaries » Harold “Hal” Kirshbaum ’65

Dr. Hal Reis Kirshbaum, age 76, a beloved husband, father, grandfather, friend, professor, and disability activist, passed away on Jan. 29, 2019.

Hal was born on Jan. 7, 1943 in Brooklyn, NY to David and Ree Kirshbaum.

Hal met his wife, Megan (Light) Kirshbaum ’65, at Antioch College, where they both participated in the civil rights movement and he led Antioch’s contingent to the March on Washington. In 1960, he went on an Antioch student trip to Cuba with his friend, Stephen J. Gould, during which the U.S. broke off relations with Cuba (a few months before the Bay of Pigs). Upon returning, at the age of 17, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

After graduating from Antioch, Hal went on to get his M.A. (NYU) and Ph.D (UC Berkeley) in philosophy. After working as a professor at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, IA, he returned to Berkeley and became involved with the independent living movement, part of the disability civil rights movement.

He worked at Berkeley’s Center for Independent Living (CIL) from 1973 until 1982. During that time, his many roles included running their first peer counseling program and a pioneering program on substance abuse and disability, as well as establishing Friends of CIL for the organization’s fundraising efforts. He also developed two disability studies graduate school programs (before the term “disability studies” was even used) at Antioch West in 1975 and Wright Institute in 1980. He was a Union Graduate School professor for doctoral students from 1978 to 1998, traveling throughout the U.S. to conduct meetings and seminars, shifting from using a cane to walker to scooter to motorized wheelchair as his multiple sclerosis progressed over the years.

In 1982, he co-founded, with his wife Megan, Through the Looking Glass (TLG), a Berkeley non-profit dedicated to supporting parents, children, and their families with disabilities. In order to more fully support fathers in their organization he completed an MA in psychology, including an internship in infant/parent psychotherapy, and became licensed as an MFT. He served on TLG’s Board of Directors from 1982 until 2010.

Hal is survived by Megan, his partner and wife of 59 years, his beloved children, Anya, a therapist in Seattle, WA, and Noah, a public interest paralegal in Oakland, CA, their spouses Paul and Melissa, his twin grandsons Ben and Sam, and granddaughter Grace.

Hal will be fondly remembered for his humor, his philosophical insights, and his lifetime dedication fighting for social justice. His love for his family, resilience, and kindness will leave a legacy for future generations.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in his memory to:

Through the Looking Glass

3075 Adeline St., Ste. 120

Berkeley, CA 94703

There will be a memorial at the Ed Roberts Campus, 3075 Adeline St., Berkeley 94703, Wednesday, March 27, from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m..