In Memoriam: Yeheskel 'Zeke' Hasenfeld
Monday, March 18, 2019
On Feb. 28, 2019, at age 81, Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus Yeheskel 'Zeke' Hasenfeld of UCLA's School of Public Affairs, likely the most influential scholar of human service organizations, passed away after a fierce battle with cancer.
How does one conclude the life and contribution of a scholar such as Zeke? Is it by his prolific research? By the impact his writings had on his field? By what his students say about him? By how his colleagues express their respects? Or perhaps by his personality and virtues as a human being? In the case of Zeke, it doesn't really matter. Zeke excelled in all those measures.
Zeke was a pioneer and a leader in the study of human service organizations, earning the Society for Social Work and Research Distinguished Career Achievement Award in 2011. In 2013 he was inducted as a fellow in the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare. In February 2019, he was listed among the 100 most influential contemporary social work faculty by the Journal of Social Service Research.
He published extensively, in the most important and prestigious outlets, and shaped the research agenda on human services. His research received to date thousands of citations, in all major journals of social work and nonprofit organizations. His colleagues and students praise his collegiality, his friendship, his good nature and his empathy, as well as the kind humor that accompanied all his interactions with colleagues and students alike.
All this was achieved despite and perhaps because of the challenges that Zeke had to face. A polio survivor, he was deeply committed to promoting fairness, justice and effectiveness in human services. He never let adversity limit him or allowed others to treat him differently. Nor did it ever dampen his positive outlook and optimism. Zeke was true to his call, and engaged with many organizations and policy campaigns as a volunteer, including most recently at the American Civil Liberties Union, working on issues related to homelessness and advocating for the rights of people with disabilities to his last days.
As for me, I feel fortunate to have had the privilege to be Zeke's student. Much of what I know now I owe to Zeke's teaching and mentorship. He taught me the utility of theory, the importance of empathy, the value of vigor. The most useful course in my doctoral studies was Zeke's course on epistemology and philosophy of science. His calm and supportive mentorship helped me through the obstacle course of earning a doctorate in a foreign country, while caring for a family and having to pay my own way. He had the unique capacity of being stern and humorous at the same time. If my students will remember me as fondly as I remember Zeke, I can consider myself a lucky man. He will be sorely missed by his wife and co-author Eve Garrow, his daughters Rena and Rachel, his granddaughters, his former wife Helen, and all those who crossed paths with this inspired and inspiring 'Mentch.'
By Hagai Katz, PhD, Senior Lecturer, Department of Business Administration, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel