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Joseph Michael Freeman ’72

Mike was born prematurely, and because eyes are among the last organs to develop—and partly due to the medical measures taken to keep him alive—his retinas detached due to abnormal blood vessel growth, causing blindness.

As a child, he attended the Washington State School for the Blind, in Vancouver, Washington, where he would later serve on several committees. After graduating from Columbia River High School he came to Reed, where he wrote his thesis, Canonical Transformations Relative to a Specified Hamiltonian, with Prof. Nicholas Wheeler ’55 [physics 1963–2010]. Mike’s mother brought him to campus nearly every day the summer before he enrolled so he could practice walking with a cane to each class, to commons, and to the dorm. By fall he had the route memorized.

He went on to get a master’s in physics from New Mexico State University and worked as an information technology specialist for the Bonneville Power Administration under the U.S. Department of Energy.

Dedicated to public works, Mike spent many years in service to the National Federation of the Blind. He was president of the Washington State chapter for several years and also served as a member of the national board. As an adult, he acquired latent autoimmune diabetes of adults. There was never a question that he would learn to handle the disease without assistance.

“One does not fight or conquer diabetes,” he wrote in Voice of the Diabetic magazine. “One lives with diabetes. Yes, it can be quite a nuisance at times. But, like blindness, that’s all it is for me—a nuisance. Neither blindness nor diabetes has stopped me from enjoying life.”

He held his ham radio license for more than 50 years and was an active member of the Clark County Amateur Radio Club. Remembered for a great sense of humor and a love of lively conversation, Mike was an accomplished musician and played numerous instruments. With his wife, Connie, he enjoyed many travel adventures with their trailer. He is survived by his wife, Connie Utterback, and daughter, Shanthi Freeman.

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