Former Cornerstone University president passes away
By Alyssa Helm
J. Edward Hakes, former Cornerstone University president, passed away on Thursday, February 23 in Baltimore, MD.
He was in the hospital for injuries suffered in a fall the night before when he went into cardiac arrest.
“He went peacefully and painlessly for which we are grateful,” Hakes’ son, Joe, 58, said.
He was 95 at the time of his death, but remained mentally sharp. Joe described his father as a man with a quick mind, observant, intuitive and memorable.
“He was just one of those people you could have a great conversation with, joke with and laugh with, but also be serious with,” Joe said. “He had a great sense of humor, and he was very serious about academics.”
Hakes spent the first portion of his adult life as a pastor of Baptist churches in New York, Ohio and Michigan. He became president of CU in 1954 and served until 1958.
“When he was at CU, it was a small place,” Joe said. “He taught classes as well as performing his duties as president.”
Hakes wanted CU to be the best place for students to be, and wanted them to be effective in what they were studying.
“Dad was a champion for high academic standards for Christian colleges and universities before that was a popular notion,” Joe said. “He believed that academic rigor and inquiry should be applied to matters of faith and social responsibility for Christians. He influenced many notable faculty members and students in his time at different institutions.”
After leaving CU, Hakes served as a faculty member at Wheaton College, his alma mater. He graduated from Wheaton with a bachelor’s degree and obtained a master’s of divinity from Eastern Baptist Seminary and his doctor of education from the University of Pittsburgh.
He retired after serving as Vice President for Academic Affairs at Trinity College in Deerfield, IL.
Hakes was vitally interested in Christian responsibility for social justice. He participated in the silent march held on the day of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s funeral, was active in the civil rights movement and spoke out early against the Vietnam War.
He also led intensive Bible studies, which highlighted that responsibility all through his retirement up to the time of his death.
“He never backed down from his position,” Joe said. “Doing what was right was really important for my dad.”
He said this demonstrates his father’s love for people. But nothing matched his love for family.
He was always interested in what his three sons were doing. He was very supportive of them and encouraged them to do their best in a very positive way, Joe said.
“He wasn’t a dictator in the house,” he said. “I can’t imagine a better dad.”
Joe said one phrase his dad used to always say was: “I don’t get headaches, I give them to other people.”
He was able to make fun of himself or someone else in a kind way, and people never really got upset with him, Joe said.
He also said Hakes was consistent with his Christian values. He acted like a Christian, and people would know it “within 10 seconds of meeting him.”
“That is a legacy I hope to have,” Joe said. “That I hope a lot of us will have.”
Hakes was preceded in death by his wife of 62 years, Lois Wyngarden Hakes. He is survived by his three sons, Jay of Atlanta, GA and his wife Anita, Jim Hakes and his wife Jean, also of Atlanta, and Joe and his wife Sue, of Decatur, IL. He had six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.