Human Rights Champion Dr. M. Cherif Bassiouni Leaves Bequest

Dr. M. Cherif Bassiouni

Most admirable are those who lead by example. In our time we our inundated with people-who-talk, whom (if we are to improve our lot) must give way to people of action. Such a person was Dr. M. Cherif Bassiouni: “I can place my little grain of sand and add to that a very thin veneer of civilization… I’m a very firm believer in the incremental approach; things change because individuals move their little grain of sand.”

As in life, Professor M. Cherif Bassiouni decided to move his little grain of sand in his passing by including Meals on Wheels Chicago in his estate plan. Our organization is fortunate to now be a beneficiary of a large bequest from his estate, with an initial distribution of $700,000.

Professor Bassiouni was known as the “father of international criminal law” and was a driving force behind the creation of international criminal tribunals. He was tireless in his quest to bring justice to the victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in South Africa, Bosnia, Bahrain, and elsewhere. He was a founding member of the International Human Rights Law Institute at DePaul University in Chicago, where he taught since 1964.

Elaine Klemen-Bassiouni, the late Dr. M. Cherif Bassiouni’s wife, presents MOWC Board President Dr. Veeral Sheth with the bequest.

“Our sincerest appreciation to Professor Bassiouni and his family for their generosity,” says Veeral Sheth, Meals on Wheels Chicago Chairman. “To see a man who had such a profound impact on human rights all over the world help shine that same light on the work we do here at home helps us remember how important the cause we work on each day is for the people of this great city. It really gives us the possibility to dream of a bigger impact, and to put some of these dreams into reality by expanding our meal services to the most needy Chicagoans.”

Meeting with his wife Elaine Klemen-Bassiouni gave us the opportunity to learn more about his fascinating life. She is a remarkable woman in her own right, fighting for those less fortunate and helping to amplify the voices of those in need. Elaine shared with us that Dr. Bassiouni included the same three quotes in all of his lectures, including an important Hadith that elucidates that religion is not being what one formally or ritualistically practices but how one deals with others. The Prophet Mohammed said, “Whosoever of you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart—and that is the weakest of faith.”

During our conversation with Elaine two things became clear. One, Professor Bassiouni truly felt the plight of the impoverished, and two, he abhorred bureaucracy that prevented aid reaching those most in need. Perhaps these two reasons are why he chose to include Meals on Wheels Chicago in his will. Our mission, while simple, directly benefits those most in need and does so in an efficient and far-reaching manner.

Meals on Wheels Chicago is able to provide meals for so many of Chicago’s homebound because of the generous donors who support our mission. Every donation matters, no matter how big or small. However, a bequest such as the one left to us by Professor Bassiouni can change the lives of those that live in poverty in truly immeasurable ways. Please join Dr. Bassiouni in supporting Meals on Wheels Chicago today.

Please join the M. Cherif Bassiouni Legacy Society by remembering homebound seniors and people with disabilities in your will.  Click here to learn more about including Meals on Wheels Chicago in your estate plans. You can contact Elise Geiger at [email protected] to discuss or inform us about your plans. 

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Photo of a Meals on Wheels Chicago Client: Share a meal with someone in need.