Professor Emeritus William H. Friedland, founder of the community studies department at UC Santa Cruz, died at the age of 94 in his Santa Cruz home on Feb. 20.
Friedland, who spent 22 years at UCSC, dedicated his career to documenting workers’ rights. He collaborated with Cèsar Chàvez and the United Farm Workers Union to ban the use of the short-handled hoe in farm work to improve workers’ health conditions.
His collaboration with the then Dean of Social Sciences also help lead to the founding of College 8, now known as Rachel Carson College.
Friedland was known to his students, collaborators and fellow faculty as validating and hardworking.
UCSC alumna and previous research assistant for Friedland, Natalie Ramirez, reflected on a time when he misunderstood a T-shirt slogan written in Spanglish. She was surprised by his humble reaction to her explanation.
“And that’s how you know that a little bit of knowledge is really just a lot of ignorance,” Friedland said to Ramirez during that interaction, referring to his own faults.
Ramirez remembers that conversation often, and said the longer she stays in academia the more rare it becomes for faculty to be able to validate and be compassionate with their students.
“It was kind of reflective of how he is a great listener and how he takes other people seriously,” Ramirez said. “He is always open to learning new things and having his vision of the world challenged even at that age, by a 19-year-old.”
Ramirez is one of thousands of students moved by Friedland’s mentorship throughout his career and contributions to UCSC.
He was an advocate for all workers regardless of race or social status, an enthusiast for liberation education and a pathfinder for international agro-food systems. Friedland’s legacy on campus will forever be fierce.
Friedland is survived by his wife, three children and grandchild.