Remembering William Freudenburg

January 6, 2011

Environmental sociologist William Freudenburg, a longtime member of the UW-Madison and Nelson Institute faculties, died of cancer late last month at his home in Santa Barbara, California. He was 59. The Daily Sound of Santa Barbara ran a touching tribute to Freudenburg on January 6. A colleague who worked with Freudenburg in the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences (AESS) memorialized him in this e-mail to its membership: Dear AESS Members, It is my sad duty to announce the passing of Bill Freudenburg, our Vice-President and President-Elect. Bill died on December 28 after a long battle with cancer. We will miss his leadership, his vision and his good humor. Bill received his Ph.D. from Yale and taught at Washington State University, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of California—Santa Barbara. One of the leading architects of the field of environmental sociology, he remained an inspiring teacher and important scholar up to the end of his life. His most recent publications include (with Robert Gramling, Shirley Laska, and Kai Erikson) Catastrophe in the Making: The Engineering of Katrina and Disasters of Tomorrow (Island Press, 2009), and Blowout in the Gulf: The BP Oil Spill Disaster and the Future of Energy in America (MIT Press, 2010). AESS owes its existence in large part to Bill's vision and energy. It was Bill, along with Bob Wilkinson, who conceived and organized the first "Environmental Summit" at Santa Barbara's UCSB campus in 2006, which attracted over 250 participants from seven nations. Its success led to subsequent Summits, which in turn gave birth to the Association. Bill graciously agreed to serve as the Secretary of the nascent organization, and was elected to the position of Vice-President and President-Elect in 2009. He was due to take office as President in June of 2011. If you wish to honor Bill, his family has suggested that donations can be made to the UCSB Foundation and designated for the Freudenburg Academic Development Fund, or just given to your favorite environmental cause. Bill's position will be filled at the next election, to be held in April/May of this year. Sincerely, Kim Smith, on behalf of the AESS Council