William "Bill" Freudenburg
  • 59 years old
  • Date of birth: Nov 2, 1951
  • Place of birth:
    Madison, Nebraska, United States
  • Date of passing: Dec 28, 2010
Let the memory of Bill be with us forever

On December 28, 2010 William R. Freudenburg, Ph.D. succumbed to bile duct cancer at his Santa Barbara, California home.  He was a beloeved son, brother, husband, father, colleague and friend as well as a world renownned environmental sociologist and social theorist best known for his work in rural sociology on the topics of risk perception, social disruption, and the causes of environmental degradation. 

This website is dedicated in loving memory of Bill.  Please feel free to leave a tribute below or your favorite story or memory by visiting the Stories page.  Learn more about Dr. Freudenburg by visiting the His Life page, Wikipedia, or reading below.


• Januay, 2014: An impressive volume of articles dedicated to the legacy of William Freudenburg was published in the Journal of Research in Social Problems and Public Policy.  Volume 21 is titled: William R. Freudenburg, A Life in Social Research (ISBN: 978-1-78190-734-4). One essay is titled: The Sociological Imagination Personified: Reflections on the LiFe, Scholarly Contributions, and Professional Accomplishments of William R. Freudenburg. by Riley E. Dunlap. Visit Emerald Publishing to access, review and/or purchase a copy.

• May, 2013: A Tribute to William R. Freudenburg was published in Society & Natural Resources, An International Journal, Volume 26, Issue 6, 2013, edited by Tom Beckley and Troy Hall.

• September, 2012:  Release of Bill's textbook titled "Humans in the Landscape: An introduction to Environmental Studies."  Co-authroed by Kai N. Lee and Richard Howarth, this is the first textbook to fully synthesize all key aspects of environmental studies. Check it out on W.W. Norton and Company's website.

April 2012:  Journal of Environmental Studies and Science (JESS) released a special issue dedicated Bill's lifelong work: The Legacy of William R. Freudenburg (Volume 2, Number 1/March 2012). Access this volume and associated articles about Bill by clicking here.

A tribute titled "William Freudenburg: An Intellectual and Professional Biography" by Riley Dunnlap and Debra Davidson was published in Volume 21, Issue 2 of the Rural Sociologist in June 2011 (download .pdf copy here).

Read a transcript of an oral history interview done with Bill by Professor Dana Fisher.  Offers a rich understanding of Bill's work and the evolution of environmental sociology in general.  The paper was presented at the American Sociology Society's (ASA) 2011 Annual Meeting in Las Vegas.

Professor Freudenburg's complete Curriculum Vitae (CV) is now available online and may be downloaded from UCSB's Environmental Studies Program webiste or by clicking here (.pdf).

An online video website featuring Dr. Freudenburg offers numerous videos about Bill, including:
   • "Bill in His Own Words" (interview of Bill done in November, 2010)
   • "The Legacy of Bill Freudenburg" (tributes from colleagues)
   • Blowout in the Gulf talk (November, 2010 lecture by Bill on his latest book)
   • 12 class lectures by Bill, part of his "Intro to Environmental Studies"
       course (fall quarter, 2010)
 Watching all videos for free at:

In May, 2011 Dr. Mary Evelyn Tucker was selected for the inaugural William Freudenburg Lifetime Achievement Award by the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences (AESS). Read more about Dr. Tucker, AESS, and the Freudenburg Lifetime Achievement award at:

Visit the Freudenfest website to view a wonderful compilation of images of Bill as well as presentations given by colleagues addressing his amazing scholarly accomplishments. Freudenfest was a daylong collaborative discussion and celebration, held at UCSB in November, 2011, of Dr. Freudenburg's contributions to sociology, environmental studies, and society.

Memorial Tributes
This tribute was added by Riley Dunlap on 2nd November 2017


Another year has zoomed by.  Environmental Sociology is going stronger than ever, and your work continues to be a key part of our field.  You are missed, and fondly remembered by our colleagues--and certainly by me.


This tribute was added by Christine Shearer on 7th January 2017

"Hi Bill, Well, there are plenty of days I still wish you were around to give me advice and insight on how to navigate the world between the social and environmental/earth sciences. And I think you'd have so many brilliant, witty things to say regarding what is happening right now - interesting times! You are missed greatly, but the influences of your work carry on in multiple areas and ways, and that is what science is about - immortality! haha. By the way, I'll never forget that you went to my PhD graduation, even when ill. Thanks Bill for everything."

This tribute was added by Cheryl Hutton on 3rd November 2016

"Dear Bill, Every morning when I'm opening the Environmental Studies  conference room I look at your portrait hanging in your library collection and send a good morning greetings and let you know how things are going. We miss you and your passion. We need more hero's to champion the environment like you did. Please send us a bunch."

This tribute was added by Riley Dunlap on 2nd November 2016

"Hi Bill,

Another year has gone by, but things are going well for your legacy and for our beloved field of Environmental Sociology.  Your "disproportionality" thesis is stimulating more and more strong research, confirming your initial findings, and may prove to be the most widely used of your numerous great ideas.

I met a bright young U.S. environmental sociologist at a little conference I co-organized in Sweden last week, one who is pretty much self-trained in our field.  He remarked that "I keep finding more great work by Bill Freudenburg the more I delve into environmental sociology."  I promised to send him you final vita, and I'm about to do that.

And you'll also be pleased to know that Env Soc is growing in stature and moving into the mainstream, thanks in part to the attention being given to climate change.  More and more work is being published in "elite" journals, following the path that you paved.

So please know, my dear friend, that your insights continue to inspire other scholars, at an escalating pace, and thereby strengthen our field.

Miss you greatly,

This tribute was added by Katey Simetra on 25th September 2016

"I’ve been thinking about Bill today, perhaps because we both would have turned 65 on November 2 this year, and I’ve been reflecting deeply and regularly on the health and well being of Nature, trees and water particularly, and the indigenous tribes that have joined together in North Dakota to take a stand to protect the water.  I stand in solidarity with all who are there, as Protectors. Although “retired,” I’ve been involved as a citizen with two groups to protect the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State from naval warfare practices involving noise-invasive growler jets and a electronic warfare range, all which impact wildlife, beautiful lands, some “protected” as a national park and national forests, and communities around the Peninsula, Whidbey Island, the San Juans, and other nearby areas.  I witness the impacts of climate change, each year showing us more. I learn continually from Nature, as my spiritual path is deeply aligned with Nature.  So, it’s not surprising that I’d think of Bill with this combination of environmental-social protection and concern for justice, Nature stewardship, spirituality and the ways of Nature, and our mutual birthdays. So, although it’s more than a month until this next birthday, I honor Bill yet again, as my friend and birthday twin, and his tremendous legacy professionally and personally.

Bill: Warm, spiritual blessings to you, my friend, as you continue your own journey, and heartfelt blessings to those you touched near and far… I miss your lively spirit in this world still, yet I know your spirit and heart live on within all of us you touched, including Mother Nature… With gratitude, love, and peace... Katey"

This tribute was added by Riley Dunlap on 6th November 2015


I just got back from Japan where I spoke at the 5th International Symposium on Environmental Sociology in East Asia, and one of the papers presented by a Chinese scholar was based on your "double diversion" argument.  So my dear friend, your work is not only alive and well (and getting lots of attention) here in the US, but is spreading internationally.

Also, the ASA Task Force volume, Climate Change and Society:  Sociological Perspectives, was finally published by Oxford and is an official ASA publication.  I sure wish you were here to help me celebrate, but I appreciated your insights when we launched the Task Force.

I think of you often, and miss you greatly.


This tribute was added by Cheryl Hutton on 2nd November 2015

"Bill, I played a very small part in your life here at the University but you seem to relate to people with special clarity. I want you to know I'm still using and I am still inspired by the password you gave me. We miss you and think of you often."

This tribute was added by Jim Freudenburg on 2nd November 2015

"Happy Birthday, Lieber Bruder! Hard to believe you would be 64 today.  If you and dad could possibly pull a few strings up there, our beloved Huskers could sure use some intervention!  Miss you always.

This tribute was added by Diane Venden on 28th December 2014

"Four years have gone by...your light continues to shine and inspire. But we who love you miss your smile & friendship so very much.  My love & thoughts are with Sarah & Max today..."

This tribute was added by Riley Dunlap on 2nd November 2014


I think of you often, and miss you very much, as do so many of our colleagues.  I've continued our tradition of organizing group dinners for ETS members at ASA meetings, and they're very successful--and a tribute to the warm and inviting atmosphere you played a key role in establishing within the Section.

With two journal symposia and the RSPPP volume dedicated to your work now in print, you can be assured that your ideas continue to get a great deal of attention.

Rest in peace my dear friend,

This tribute was added by Diane Venden on 3rd November 2013

"The picture of you on my wall puts a smile on my face every time--your smile is that contagious, it spans the distance between us even now. Always in my heart, sweet man and good friend.  Here at UW we miss you still and speak of you often when we gather.  I'm so thankful our lives crossed paths, Bill!"

This tribute was added by Diane Venden on 2nd November 2012

"Remembering you especially on your birthday.  If only I was choosing a witty card for your enjoyment!  Always in my heart, Bill, the best "boss" ever."

This tribute was added by Barbara Haley on 31st July 2012

"Bill left us much, much too soon.  May his spirit live on!"

This tribute was added by Diane Venden on 28th December 2011

"One year ago today, rocks fell from the mountaintop and stopped us in our tracks.  One year ago today, my best friend couldn't tell me the tragic news, she had to pass the phone to a friend who could.  Just one year to show us that life goes on, though with less volume and one less hero. Thank you, Bill, for the mountain of great memories!"

This tribute was added by Lindsay Kircher on 1st June 2011

"Bill's passion for ES & talent for teaching & inspiring others never ceased to amaze me.  His words-"The most that any of us can hope for is to make a positive difference with others, and possibly to leave the world a tiny bit better than we found it"

This tribute was added by Eric Zimmerman on 26th April 2011

"Re: Beth Parke's post about SEJournal articles: to view them you may need to go to the Journal website itself at: and do a search for "Remembering Bill Freudenburg" and "Robbing Nature's Bank."  Some experience an error when copyin"

This tribute was added by Beth Parke on 26th April 2011

"The Spring 2011 SEJournal, (Society of Environmental Journalists), offers a remembrance written by Roger Witherspoon, along with a brilliant essay by Bill. You can read it here:"

This tribute was added by Mira Dorrance-Bird on 25th February 2011

"I am so grateful to have had the chance to learn from Professor Freudenburg. The level of respect I have for him is beyond what I am able to express. I will always regret not thanking him personally for teaching me more in 10 weeks than I have learned in the course of my entire education, and inspiring me in the same fashion. Here's to a tremendous human being... Thank you, Bill!"

This tribute was added by Angela Mertig on 31st January 2011

"Bill, thank you for your collegiality and support.  Your positive energy, overt friendliness, sense of humor and wisdom will be sorely missed.  You are a true scholar and mensch."

This tribute was added by Jessica Guzman on 22nd January 2011

"To all those Professor Freudenburg touched they are so lucky to have met him. I first had the pleasure of taking his class as a freshman at UCSB. His ES 1 class inspired me more than any other class ever has done. Thank you so much for all the amazing things you did during your short stay on this planet. You will not be disappointed in all the work that your students continue to do in your honor."

This tribute was added by dani bobrowske on 21st January 2011

"I was lucky enough to have Bill Freudenburg as my Professor. I have never been so inspired by any other teacher; Bill's passion shined through everything he taught. I am so grateful to have known and and been a student of Professor Freudenburg. He will always be in my heart."

This tribute was added by Marc McGinnes on 19th January 2011

"It was a blessing to be in the presence of and in community with this truly lovely man.  Bill was on fire and he loved being on fire and he was a master at helping others come alight.  Who can ever forget his wide-eyed embrace, calling you to yourself and to the joy of the work and play at hand.  I nominate Bill as a Saint of our community. I can hear him laughing at the thought,"

This tribute was added by Eric Zimmerman on 16th January 2011

"From: Cousin Judy from Iowa:
Bill was a really great guy!  I remember he would always be so excited to go on the wagon rides on our farm.  He would always bring us Mad Magazines and comic books.  It was always such fun when you would come visit!  Even though he was older than me, he was always really nice and had a great sense of humor.  We will all miss him."

This tribute was added by Eric Zimmerman on 16th January 2011

"From Greg and Mary Lubisher:
I feel privileged to have known Bill and wish I knew him even better.  I will miss the talks we had over crops, weather, and the Cornhuskers.  When it came to crop prices we would usually have an argument over who did the worse job of marketing.  In the end, we would usually console each other and vow to do better next time.  What a neat person he was, and to talk to!"

This tribute was added by Eric Zimmerman on 16th January 2011

"From Mary Becker Boston:
My memories of Bill are from when we were in high school.  He was very friendly and so very, very intelligent!  He was also so musically talented that my husband Earl and I asked Bill to sing for our wedding.  He did a fabulous job!  After reading his obituary, I see what a full and wonderful life he had.  I hope that there is someone to carry on his great legacy."

This tribute was added by Eric Zimmerman on 16th January 2011

"From: Mrs. Glenda Graves from West Point:
Bill certainly achieved much during his earthly life!  I will always remember lifeguarding with him at Indian Trails, and he and Randy 'making music' out in our barn!"

This tribute was added by Nan Johnson on 15th January 2011

"Colleague Bill, I have always appreciated your sense of humor and your intelligence. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your mentorship."

This tribute was added by Ernst von Weizsaecker on 12th January 2011

"Bill knew that conserving the environment requires a change of politics. And that in a country where you can make a political career by spitting at politics. He was one of my best friends during my three years of service for the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management. Ernst von Weizsaecker"

This tribute was added by Kathryn Slama on 11th January 2011

"Professor Freudenburg is the reason I am pursuing my masters degree in an environmental field.  Having him throughout my time at UCSB made my experience that much more memorable. He had a passion for his work and a genuine interest in all of his students. myself and all other ES students owe it to him. We will continue your work professor! Here's to you"

This tribute was added by Noëlle Boucquey on 10th January 2011

"I will never forget Bill Freudenburg's excellent and challenging courses, great sense of humor and caring attitude toward his students. In Bill's classes, we didn't shy away from difficult authors, we had great discussions, and Bill would join us for pizza after class. It was a wonderful way to learn. Bill was also instrumental in helping me get into graduate school. Thank you for everything Bill!"

This tribute was added by Wolfgang Schluchter on 10th January 2011

"I remember many conversations and discussions with Bill Freudenburg and I would like hereby to say him thanks for the depth and humanity of the exchange of knowledge and experience. Thank you, Bill."

This tribute was added by Flora Wang on 9th January 2011

"Bill---my distinguished colleague---I’d like to express my heartfelt respect to you. Your vivid lectures, profound erudition, teaching skills really benefited me a lot. Thanks a lot for the great opportunity you providing me to work with you at UCSB. I will always remember your passion on environmental sociology, your smile, humor, kindness, friendship…….Rest in peace, my dear friend."

This tribute was added by Shelly Barnes on 6th January 2011

"As my advisor for my undergraduate thesis, Bill would ask on a weekly basis if I was still rearranging my pencils. Little did I know, that having your pencils in a row is a very important part of any writing process. Bill, your humor and passion will be greatly missed."

This tribute was added by Alisha Dahlstrom on 6th January 2011

"Among a unique and wonderful ES department, Bill was a wonderful guide and inspiration. Some of the best and lasting lessons I took from UCSB were learned in his classes, lessons I think about in life and that are guiding my time at grad school. And always so kind, despite my persistant knocking at his door. I am lucky to have had a chance to learn from one of the greats. Will always remember you."

This tribute was added by Lauren Davis on 6th January 2011

"Prof. Freudenburg was one of the most compassionate and inspiring professors I had during my time at UCSB. I took ES1 with him the first quarter of my freshman year and his freshman seminar. For the next 4 years, I was so touched that he always took the time to say hello when I ran into him on campus, always remembering my name and our connection. I feel so lucky that I learned from him."

This tribute was added by Erinn O'Shea on 6th January 2011

"Bill inspired us all to live each day vibrantly, joyfully, and with much humor. He demonstrated these qualities to the very end. What an exquisite role model we were blessed with!"

This tribute was added by Diane Venden on 6th January 2011

"Bill, We were a real "team" at the Dept. of Rural Sociology at UW-Madison. We were extremely busy but always the humor and friendship. You brought me tiger lilies from your ditch at home which to me were roses. My heart is broken; memories will stay with me forever.  Diane "best secretary of all time" 1991"

This tribute was added by Jang Heo on 6th January 2011

"I came to be one of many lucky students of him since 1994 when Bill was in Madison, Wisconsin. He was so gentle, humorous, kind, and warm-hearted to my family from Korea as well as giving many precious comments on my doctoral thesis. I cannot forget the most pleasant dinner with his family at a restaurant in Santa Barbara. Rest in peace, my dear advisor..."

This tribute was added by Nancy Minick on 5th January 2011

"Bill, I didn't know you very long or very well, but I so enjoyed your company.  I miss your (sometimes) wicked sense of humor and your ever present smile.  Peaceful journey."

This tribute was added by Norah Duffy on 5th January 2011

"Bill Freudenburg was one of the kindest and most approachable professors I had in my time at UCSB. I feel fortunate to have taken ES1 honors my first year, where he inspired me to think deeply about and challenge many things I accepted as a normal part of life. I will always remember the picture he showed of a $2.50 bottle of Evian water next to the tap in his hotel!
Rest in Peace Professor"

This tribute was added by Patti Freudenburg on 5th January 2011

""BBB" -- Big Brother Bill -- thanks for the wisdom, the joy and the humor you brought to our lives!  And students -- thank you for sharing a side of Bill's world that the family didn't often have a chance to see.
"LSP" ..... little sister Pat"

This tribute was added by Sarah Lang on 5th January 2011

"I am sorry to hear the sad news. I am an ES graduate from 2009 and now I am about to begin my master's thesis on the double diversion in a few weeks...Professor Freudenburg loved the idea when I emailed him for advice about it, I'm sorry he won't be around to read it, but I'll work extra hard on it to make him proud! thanks for all the inspiration Professor"

This tribute was added by Anonymous Bugoff on 5th January 2011

"Professor Freudenberg, you are the reason I chose to major in ES and therefore you changed my life.  Thank you so much for your light.  You resonated with passion for your students for the world, and you even made me tear up on the last day of class.  I hope your son reads this and remembers the impact his father had- a massive, loving ripple through the world.  

Safe passage <3"

This tribute was added by david sai-ngarm on 5th January 2011

"Professor Freudenberg could make the world of bleak and grey into blue and green again, for lost souls stuck to the slick of oil- he was acetone. For those in the slip of acerbic melancholy, he was harmony, he was melody. Long live his lectures, long live his voice, may mankind make its stand in the waves and likes of him..."

This tribute was added by katia baumgartner on 5th January 2011

"Thank you for your kindness, passion, were trully a great man....

God bless you and your family"

This tribute was added by Sam Brockway on 4th January 2011

"Bill was the most inspirational professor of my tenure as a student. He frequently extended great acts of kindness towards his students, and his only expectation was that we do the same for our students when we are able to. In a large public university, it is very rare to find a professor that makes as sincere of an attempt to get to know and befriend students as Bill did."

This tribute was added by Kelsey Catlin on 4th January 2011

"In the simplest words, Professor Freudenburg is the reason I became an Environmental Studies major. His undying passion and truly inspirational lectures re-awakened a passion of my own as a freshman and changed the course of my educational career, and in turn, my life. It is with great sadness we see him go, but in his memory that we continue to forge the path he began for us all."

This tribute was added by Kelley Neumann on 4th January 2011

"Bill was SUCH a joy to be around. I feel blessed to have met him and spent time with him. His passion for environmental issues, for people, and for academia always felt so blissful and genuine. He inspired me, as I'm sure he inspired so many others. His life was one that touched and changed more than he could have imagined."

This tribute was added by Sean Peterson on 4th January 2011

"Prior to taking Professor Freudenburg's class I had no passion towards any particular field of study at UCSB. With a single lecture Professor Freudenburg had me hooked on environmental issues and his theory of 'double diversion.' Thank you, Professor Freudenburg, for all that you have contributed to my life and to those of others."

This tribute was added by Jennifer Michels on 4th January 2011

"I was a student of Bill's in 2006. I wrote him an email at the end of the quarter letting him know how much I enjoyed his class and he wrote back this,
Thanks very much --It's working with positive students like you that convinces me I happen to have the best job in the world.
All the best -- Professor Bill"

This tribute was added by kylee wilkins on 4th January 2011

"Best professor I've ever had. His passion for his work brought me to tears some lectures. I am so thankful for being able to hear him speak.
I believe many of his students will never forget his words and go on to change the world they way he would have hoped.
You will be missed"

This tribute was added by Matt Gilliland on 4th January 2011

"Professor Freudenburg reaffirmed my passion for environmental studies with his incredible Env S. 1 class. He would lecture for an hour and ten minutes, and then in the last five he would make his point, effectively turning my and every other students' world upside down. To this day he is still the only Professor I have had who received applause and ovations after every single one of his lectures."

This tribute was added by Eric Zimmerman on 4th January 2011

"Bill, your smile, wit, passion, humor and friendship will never be forgotten.  Your friend forever!"

Leave a Tribute:
Invite your family and friends
to visit this memorial:

Subscribe to receive e-mail notifications when others contribute to this memorial.

This memorial is administered by:

Eric Zimmerman

Kindly sponsored by:
Patti Freudenburg


Have a suggestion for us?

We are waiting for your feedback!