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.


• December, 2019: An updated biography of Bill Freudenburg, written by Professor Riley E. Dunlap of Oklahoma State University, was recently published in the Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology. 

• 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.

Posted by Jennifer Michels on January 4, 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
Posted by Sean Peterson on January 4, 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.
Posted by Kelley Neumann on January 4, 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.
Posted by Kelsey Catlin on January 4, 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.
Posted by Sam Brockway on January 4, 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.
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Recent Tributes
Posted by Riley Dunlap on November 3, 2019
Hi Bill,

Got some good news for you this year, my dear friend. I was invited to write a short piece about you and your scholarship for the Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology by George Ritzer, and with the help of Duane Gill I have done so. It should be out fairly soon, and it's great recognition for you to be in there along with many giants of sociology. I'll send it along so it can be posted on this site when the volume comes out.

I continue to miss you a lot. The older I get the more I realize how incredibly valuable and meaningful our friendship was, and sure wish you where still here. But have no doubt, you scholarship lives on.

Posted by Riley Dunlap on November 2, 2018
Well, yet another year flew by Bill, and I've "retired" and am settling into a new home in Tulsa where Christina found a good job. I hope to keep publishing regularly, and help keep our field of Environmental Sociology going strong--which it certainly is. As I noted last year, your work continues to be drawn upon by a wide range of scholars, and "disproportionality" is especially stimulating a good deal of work. So your ideas and spirit clearly live on. Miss you. Riley
Posted by Riley Dunlap on November 2, 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.

Recent stories

Sad news

Shared by Riley Dunlap on January 1, 2015


Sadly we lost your buddy Bob Gramling this year.  Like you, he left us too early.  What an incredible collaboration you two had, and many have benefitted from the work of "Freudling" and "Gramburg."  Besides being superb scholars, you were wonderful human beings.   

You are missed, and your work (including that with Bob) continues to inspire and be used by other scholars.  I just cited two of your articles today!

You are always on my mind, and I miss you a great deal.



Happy Birthday

Shared by Riley Dunlap on November 2, 2013

Dear Bill,

How I wish you were still here to celebrate your 62nd birthday.  But please know that your memory is burning bright in lives of so many people, and your work is getting more attention than ever.  We miss you.

Your dear friend,
Riley Dunlap    

Ode to Bill

Shared by Riley Dunlap on June 8, 2011

The following is the statement I read at Freudenfest:

By 1976 Bill Catton and I had teamed up at Washington State and I was excited not only about becoming an “environmental sociologist,” but eager to see the field develop—especially at Washington State. In those early days social impact assessment was a hot topic and a key component of this new field, so when WSU’s Department of Rural Sociology (where I had a half-time appointment) had an opening that year I pushed to have it re-defined from a “community development” position to more of a social impact slot—and Don Dillman, the new Chair, was receptive to the idea. So we advertised for a joint position with the Department of Sociology that, while I don’t recall the details, was designed for someone doing SIA.
At the August 1976 ASA meeting I made a point of attending a session in which someone from Yale was giving a presentation on “energy boomtowns” in Colorado, and what a presentation it was. A boyishly handsome young fellow, with a full head of hair no less, knocked my socks off with an enthusiastic and articulate talk about the impact of energy development on rural communities—and I knew I had found the ideal candidate and cornered Bill when the session ended. I told him about the position and how he’d be a perfect fit, but he indicated he wasn’t even close to being finished with his dissertation and wasn’t on the market. I was disappointed, but vowed to keep my eye on him.
Fortunately, the two people we interviewed turned us down, so when we re-advertised the following year I made sure to track Bill down at the 1977 ASA meeting where he again gave a great talk. This time I pushed hard to get him to apply, and truth be known, the small-town Nebraska boy had become a real Ivy League guy and was a bit unsure about both rural sociology and Washington State University, especially its location in Pullman. But I explained that a research appointment in Rural Sociology meant a lower teaching load, re-emphasized that he was a perfect fit for the position, and then added he’d have very good colleagues!  Despite still having a lot of work left on his dissertation Bill applied and got the job, and arrived in Fall, 1978 ABD.
To my pleasant surprise, Gene Rosa applied for a position in Sociology the same year, largely I suspect because his partner at the time was very interested in WSU, and was also hired and we landed a rare specialist in energy, another hot topic in the emerging field of environmental sociology. I was in heaven, as we not only had the world’s first environmental sociology program, but a damn good one.
The next several years were truly “glory years” for WSU environmental sociology, and we had a real esprit de corps. Bill took the office next door to mine in Rural Sociology, and we struck up a fast friendship. He was full of ideas and happy to share them and also eager to hear mine, and not shy about expressing his views on his, mine and just about everybody else’s. Shy Bill was not, and while he occasionally ruffled the feathers of a few senior members of the department he also earned the respect and admiration of others, especially Bill Catton and James Short. I simply enjoyed talking with him, as he always had good insights on everything from boomtowns to paradigms.
When he wasn’t out with Gene, who (after his partner left WSU) was trying to teach Bill how to become a “lady’s man,” he’d sometimes join me for a night out or come over for dinner with my family. My kids and (now ex) wife liked Bill a lot, and my son Chris was especially fond of him. In particular, he enjoyed checking out Bill’s office with its unique filing system (piles everywhere) every time I happened to bring him to my office. Of course, this created some problems, as when I’d tell Chris to clean up his room and he’d respond, “Why? It’s not as messy as Bill’s office.” I had to agree, but emphasized that Bill’s office was not part of our home!
Of course, all good things have to come to an end, and in 1986 Bill was wooed to Madison. While he hated to leave WSU (or so he said) he just had to get out of Pullman if he ever wanted to find a woman. I in turn pointed out that’s it’s really hard to find one when you work until 11 pm or later each night! Still, I realized it was a good professional move, and of course Gene and I joked “Is it Pullman, or is it Freudenburg?” and made wagers about whether Bill would ever find a woman who could put up with his work habits. I’m glad to say we were both quite happy to be proven wrong, and delighted when he found Sarah.
Over the decades I’ve watched him evolve from “Boomtown Bill” to William R. as in “recreance” Freudenburg to a fellow whose prodigious body of superb scholarship attracts a well-deserved “disproportional” share of attention, who is continually creative and novel and thus doesn’t need to engage in “diversionary reframing,” whose professionalism has often helped combat the growth of “corrosive communities” within our field, and whose collegiality has generated a “density of acquaintanceship” to be envied. And trust me, my praise is no SCAM!
Quite simply, Bill is one of the very smartest and most creative scholars I’ve ever known. He has produced a body of scholarly work that has advanced environmental sociology and social science greatly, and will continue to stimulate other scholars for decades to come.
The friendship we formed during those early years easily survived Bill’s move to Wisconsin, and over the past three decades I’ve had no better and more reliable friend than Bill Freudenburg. I’ve had some ups and downs in my life and career, and I have always been able to turn to Bill when in need of a helping hand whether just a pat on the back or quick feedback on an overdue manuscript. As they say, a friend in need is a friend indeed, and it’s been a privilege and honor to have Bill as a close friend and confidant. Indeed, he’s become more like a brother, and that’s why I love him like one and always will.