his Life

More About Professor Freudenburg

William R. Freudenburg is the Dehlsen Professor of Environmental Studies at UCSB. Although he stresses that he is not opposed to “traditional” forms of environmentalism, which emphasize recycling and reducing one’s impact on the environment, Freudenburg's work has a different emphasis. He focuses not so much on the role of individual consumers as those of organized producers, emphasizing the socially structured sources of environmental impacts. He has devoted most of his career to the study of environment-society relationships. He is particularly well-known both for his work on coupled environment-society systems in general and for his work on more specific topics, including resource-dependent communities, the social impacts of environmental and technological change, and risk analysis.

Over the past several decades he has worked in the areas of risk, disaster, and natural resource development, and most critically the political forces that define such events, has offered multiple seeds that warrant further development by others in the sociology and environmental discipline.

Dr. Freudenburg has held official positions with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Sociological Association, and the National Academy of Sciences, among others. He is the winner of Awards from the American Sociological Association, Rural Sociological Society, Pacific Sociological Association, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, as well as being listed in numerous reference works, including Who's Who in Science and Engineering, Who's Who in America, and Who's Who in the World.  He is the President-Elect of the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences (AESS).

Some of his latest book publications include:
- Blowout in the Gulf: The BP Oil Spill Disaster and the Future of Energy in America by William Freudenburg and Robert Gramling
- Catastrophe in the Making: The Engineering of Katrina and the Disasters of Tomorrow by William R. Freudenburg, Robert B. Gramling, Shirley Laska, and Kai Erikson
- Oil in Troubled Waters: Perceptions, Politics, and the Battle over Offshore Drilling (Suny Series in Environmental Public Policy) by William R. Freudenburg and Robert Gramling

UCSB Press Release on Bill's Passing

Memorial Service to Honor William Freudenburg, UCSB Professor and Renowned Environmental Scholar

Santa Barbara, Calif. –– A memorial service honoring William R. Freudenburg, the Dehlsen Professor of Environmental Studies at UC Santa Barbara, will take place at the UCSB Faculty Club at 1 p.m. on Saturday, January 22. Freudenburg, 59, died December 28 after a long battle with bile duct cancer, according to an announcement from the Environmental Studies Program.

A specialist in natural resource development and its associated human and environmental risks, Freudenburg was also an expert on the impact of environmental disasters. He authored or co-authored three important books on oil exploration and production, including "Blowout in the Gulf –– The BP Oil Spill Disaster and the Future of Energy in America" (The MIT Press, 2010). A Publisher's Weekly Pick of the Week when it came out in October, the book examines the Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent oil spill, as well as the decisions and policies that made the disaster not only possible, but also inevitable.

Among Freudenburg's other works are "Catastrophe in the Making: The Engineering of Katrina and the Disasters of Tomorrow" and "Oil in Troubled Waters: Perceptions, Politics, and the Battle Over Offshore Drilling." He also wrote or co-wrote dozens of journal articles, books, and book chapters that focused on the interaction between society and the environment.

"Professor Freudenburg exemplified tremendous courage and grace in his struggle with cancer," said Chancellor Henry T. Yang. "Despite his illness, he never wavered in his passion for teaching and research, and for making a difference in our world. The many lives he touched will always be a very important and meaningful aspect of Bill's lasting legacy."

A fierce advocate for the protection of rural communities and the environment, Freudenburg served on committees and boards of directors of several professional organizations, including the Rural Sociology Society; the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences, an organization he helped found; the American Association for the Advancement of Science; the American Sociological Association; the Council on Agricultural Science and Technology; the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council; the Risk Analysis and Policy Association; and the U.S. Department of Energy's Environmental Management Advisory Committee.

Born in Madison, Neb., on November 2, 1951, Freudenburg earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa. He completed his master's and doctoral degrees in sociology at Yale University, and began his academic career in 1978 as an assistant professor at Washington State University. In 1986, following a year as a Congressional Fellow in the U.S. House of Representatives and a year as visiting associate professor at the University of Denver, he joined the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as professor of rural sociology and environmental studies. He was named the Dehlsen Professor of Environmental Studies and Sociology at UCSB in 2002.

Freudenburg is survived by his wife, Sarah Stewart; their son, Maxwell Stewart Freudenburg; his mother, Betty Davis Freudenburg of Estes Park and Colorado Springs, Colo.; his brother Jim Freudenburg of Longmont, Colo.; his sister, Patti Freudenburg of Colorado Springs; and several nieces and nephews.

William R. Freudenburg, Ph.D., succumbed to bile duct cancer at his Santa Barbara, California home on December 28, 2010.  He was 59 years old.

Bill was an internationally known environmental sociologist, author, and lecturer. He spoke passionately for protection of rural communities and the environment. He was a wonderful family member, husband, and father.

Bill was born in Madison, Nebraska on November 2, 1951, to Eldon Gilbert Freudenburg and Betty Davis Freudenburg. He was raised in the Lutheran faith, which sustained him his entire life.

He grew up in West Point, Nebraska, and attended the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, where he earned his Bachelor's Degree and graduated Phi Beta Kappa. Following his undergraduate studies, he attended Yale University where he earned his Ph.D. in Sociology.  His thesis, on the "Boom and Bust" cycles associated with oil shale development, was based on a year living in Paonia, Colorado. He developed friendships there that he maintained for the rest of his life.

Bill embarked on his academic career in 1978 as an Assistant Professor at Washington State University. He taught there until 1986 when he moved to the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he served as Professor of Rural Sociology. There he studied natural resource development, including the human and environmental risks associated with it. He also expanded his interests in the environmental disasters occasionally associated with development and in the political forces surrounding those events.

During 1983-84, Bill served as a Congressional Fellow at the U.S. House of Representatives, and during 1984-95 he was a visiting professor at the University of Denver.

Bill married the love of his life, Sarah Stewart, in Denver on October 19, 1996. They were blessed with a son, Maxwell Stewart Freudenburg, who was born on August  3, 2000.

In 2002, the University of California Santa Barbara lured Bill away from Madison. He became the Dehlsen Endowed Chair in the Environmental Studies Program, where he was a core member of the Program, including teaching the introductory class to over 400 students each year. He received consistent accolades for his teaching, including being voted an "Outstanding Professor." Bill continued to teach through the fall quarter of 2010. On November 6, 2010, he was honored for his extensive scholarly works by many colleagues, former and current students and dear friends from across the nation at Freudenfest, a day long symposium held at UCSB.

In addition to being prolific in publishing important papers on environment-society interactions, he published three books about oil exploration and production. The last, "Blowout in the Gulf", was published in November, 2010. A little more than a month before his death, he presented a lecture on the risks of deep-water oil exploration that is still available for viewing at:

Bill was committed to professional service, including as President of the Rural Sociology Society and as President-Elect of the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences, an organization he helped found. He received numerous awards for his influential scholarship.

Bill was preceded in death by his father in 2005. He is survived by his wife and son of Santa Barbara, California, as well as his mother of Estes Park and Colorado Springs, brother Jim Freudenburg of Longmont, CO, sister Patti Freudenburg of Colorado Springs, and several loving nieces and nephews.