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University of California Santa Barbara

Memos to Campus

Sad news - Professor William Freudenburg

January 5, 2011

TO THE CAMPUS COMMUNITY
 
Dear Colleagues:
 
I am saddened to share with you the news that Professor William Freudenburg passed away on December 28, at home with his family. Professor Freudenburg exemplified tremendous courage and grace in his struggle with bile duct cancer; despite his illness, he never wavered in his passion for teaching and research, and for making a difference in our world. Our hearts go out to Bill's wife, Sarah Stewart, and their son, Maxwell, and to the rest of Bill's family and many friends. We will miss him greatly. In his honor, our campus flag will be lowered to half-staff on January 22.
 
Dr. Freudenburg joined our campus in 2002 and held an endowed chair as our Dehlsen Professor of Environmental Studies. He was a core faculty member in our Environmental Studies Program, and held an affiliated position at our Bren School of Environmental Science and Management as well as in our Sociology Department. He encouraged his students to think deeply about the relationship between society and the environment; in his immensely popular "Introduction to Environmental Studies" course, it was not at all uncommon for his 400-plus students to applaud at the end of one of his inspiring lectures. In addition to his teaching and research, Professor Freudenburg also played a key leadership role in our campus's sustainability efforts.
 
Although he received numerous awards throughout his career, one of the most meaningful to him was being voted an "Outstanding Professor" by our students. I had the honor of attending a public lecture he gave on campus just two months ago, where he discussed his new book, Blowout in the Gulf: The BP Oil Disaster and the Future of Energy in America, and talked about the lessons we could learn from such disasters. I will always remember how the packed crowd at Broida Hall gave him three standing ovations at the end.
 
Professor Freudenburg was internationally recognized for his expertise on coupled environment-society systems, including his research on resource-dependent communities, the social impacts of environmental and technological change, and risk analysis. He also authored three books on oil exploration and production. He served as President of the Rural Sociology Society and as President-Elect of the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences, an organization he helped found. His commitment to professional service also extended to positions with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Sociological Association, and the National Academy of Sciences, among others.
 
On November 6, 2010, our campus held a special symposium, "Freudenfest," in honor of Dr. Freudenburg's pioneering contributions over several decades to sociology, environmental studies, and society. Many colleagues, former and current students, and friends from across the nation joined us to pay tribute to Bill. They praised not only his remarkable achievements, but also his caring nature, his incisive wit, his dedicated mentorship, and his wisdom that he so freely shared with others. The many lives he touched will always be a very important and meaningful aspect of Bill's lasting legacy.
 
We will be holding a celebration of Professor Freudenburg's life on Saturday, January 22, at 1 p.m. at the UCSB Faculty Club. I invite you to join us in honoring the memory of our dear colleague and friend.
 
Sincerely,
 
Henry T. Yang
Chancellor