Beloved environmental science professor William R. Freudenburg died in his Santa Barbara home on Dec. 28 after a two-year battle with bile duct cancer. He was 59 years old.
An esteemed author and advocate for the protection of rural communities, Freudenburg taught at UCSB for nine years. A public memorial service will be held in his honor on Jan. 22 at 1 p.m. at the UCSB Faculty Club.
Additionally, Freudenburg helped found the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences and served on the boards of the Rural Sociological Society and U.S. Department of Energy’s Environmental Management Advisory Committee.
Robert Wilkinson, an environmental studies professor, said Freudenburg’s impact extends far beyond the scholastic world.
“Another side of Bill that only a few lucky students got to experience was Bill the adventurer,” Wilkinson said. “Bill sitting around the campfire, chatting late into the evening with students is the image that I will always remember. Bill had a passion for life and learning that was his ultimate ‘lesson plan.’”
Eric Zimmerman, academic advisor and internship coordinator for the environmental studies program, said Freudenburg’s outlook was inspiring and contagious.
“Bill’s passion for environmental issues, for people and for academia, always felt so blissful and genuine,” Zimmerman said. “He was beloved by all who met him and was an inspiration to scores of undergraduate and graduate students alike.”
Freudenburg continued to teach his popular Environmental Studies 1 class — among other courses — for two years while battling the disease.
In a Dec. 3, 2009 interview with the Daily Nexus, environmental studies professor Mel Manalis spoke about his admiration of Freudenburg’s courage and tenacity long before his colleague’s death.
“His illness is tragic and a deep concern for me, but Bill is still teaching as if he’s won, which I am in complete awe of,” Manalis said. “That takes a lot of guts.”
Although Freudenburg’s time at UCSB has come to an end, his ideas and values live on through former students like Violetta Muselli.
“What Bill wanted all of us to remember is that things don’t have to be the way they are today,” Muselli said. “Knowledge is power and what we as educated and passionate young people need to do is spread the truth by placing ourselves in positions in society with the power to make positive change through important and far-reaching decisions.”
Originally from Madison, Neb., Freudenburg received a B.A. from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and an M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology from Yale University. He also worked at Washington State University, the University of Wisconsin in Madison and University of Denver. He acted as a Congressional Fellow for the U.S. House of Representatives from 1983 to 1984.
Freudenburg is survived by his wife Sarah Stewart, son Maxwell Stewart Freudenburg, mother Betty Davis Freudenburg, brother Jim and sister Patti.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The UCSB Foundation or any environmental cause or charity through http://es.ucsb.edu/giving. Additionally, a Web page created in celebration of Freudenburg’s life can be accessed at http://billfreudenburg.forevermissed.com.