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Summer 2012 TLG Spotlight: Hal Kirshbaum

Hal Kirshbaum, was the co-founder of Through the Looking Glass with Megan in 1982. He had graduated from Antioch College in Southern Ohio, where he met Megan and they both participated in the civil rights movement. Hal was briefly jailed in Xenia Ohio for integrating a barbershop and led Antioch’s contingent to the March on Washington.

Hal was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 17, shortly after he returned from an Antioch student trip to Cuba in 1960. During their visit the U.S. broke off relations with Cuba and the Cubans began hastily preparing for an invasion (which was to occur in a few months at the Bay of Pigs).The situation may have enhanced the opportunities of the students (including Stephen J Gould, who became Hal’s friend) as they had meetings with Che Guevara and Fidel Castro.

After Antioch Hal went on to get his M.A. (NYU) and Ph.D (UC Berkeley) in philosophy, first teaching at Coe College in Iowa. He became involved with the independent living movement in Berkeley’s Center for Independent Living from 1973, initially with Ed Roberts and Peter Leech, a social worker with quadriplegia with whom he first co-led a peer support group. Hal then ran the first peer counseling program in the Berkeley CIL, directed its counseling, provided training in support of national and international replication of the model, and established CIL’s Friends’ fundraising component. He also developed two disability studies programs (before the term “disability studies” was used)—an MA program jointly between CIL and Antioch West in 1975 and a Ph.D. program at Wright Institute in 1980. He was later interviewed for the oral history of the independent living movement by UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library.

After co-founding Through the Looking Glass Hal specialized in its services to other fathers of children with disabilities/medical issues and facilitated a support group for other parents with disabilities through the 1980’s. To develop his skills in this work he had gone back to graduate school to complete an MA in psychology, did an internship in infant mental health (SF General Infant Parent Program), wrote a thesis on theories about infancy, and became licensed as an MFT. He was on TLG’s Board of Directors from 1982 until 2010.

Hal was a professor for Ph.D. students in Union Institute for many years, working with diverse and mature students all over the country. He traveled extensively around the country to meet with students in an era when access was poor and his M.S. was increasingly affecting his mobility.