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Former U-M Professor, Fired During McCarthy Era, Dies

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Former U-M professor, fired during McCarthy era, dies

■ Mark Nickerson refused to testify before committee.




Mark Nickerson, one of three University of Michigan professors fired in 1954 for refusing to answer questions about possible communist connections, died Thursday at the age of 81.

Nickerson died at his home in Wendover, Ontario, said his son, Steve Nickerson.

After his dismissal from the U-M, Mark Nickerson went to Canada, where he was on the faculty of the University of Manitoba and then at McGill University in Montreal, where he retired from the pharmacology department in 1982.

Nickerson - along with Chandler Davis and Clement Markert - was fired by former U-M president Harlan Hatcher for refusing to testify before a congressional subcommittee on un-American activities. Markert was eventually reinstated.

The incident was part of the anti-Communist frenzy of the Joseph McCarthy era.

After U-M faculty members unsuccessfully tried to get to the U-M Board of Regents to issue letters of apology to the three men in 1990, a lecture series was established bearing their names.

Eugene Roberts Jr., former editor of the Philadelphia Enquirer, delivered the eighth annual Davis, Markert, Nickerson lecture Monday in the Rackham Building on the U-M campus, where the audience observed a moment of silence in memory of Nickerson.

The events at the U-M in the 1950s scarred Nickerson’s life, forcing him to work extra hard to redeem his reputation, his son said.

“His life was essentially spent trying to provg them all wrong, to prove that it was wasn’t lack of competence or ability (that led to his dismissal). It was political obstructionism.

“He felt hugely betrayed,” said Steve Nickerson. “It destroyed his entire life.”

Nickerson was able to resurrect a notable academic career. He went to McGill in 1967, sending as chairman for several years and eamirig numerous awards and honors, Steve Nickerson said.

Nickerson is survived by three children: Steve Nickerson, of Ottawa; Mike Nickerson, of Mer-rickville, Ontario; and Marki Nickerson, of British Columbia. There are she grandchildren.

Mark Nickerson, who was divorced in tHe 1970s, remarried in the mid-1980s. His second wife died in 1996, his son said.

Nickerson returned to the U-M campus & least once, in 1991, for the lecture series.