William Rothstein

Dr. William "Bill" G. Rothstein

February 26, 1937 - December 5, 2020
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Service Details

  • Service

    Thursday, December 10th, 2020 | 12:00pm
    Thursday, December 10th, 2020 12:00pm
    Virtual Funeral
    Please use the webcasting button above to view the service


Dr. William "Bill" G. Rothstein, of Baltimore, MD, passed away on Saturday, December 5th, 2020 at the age of 83. He is survived by his dear sister, Barbara (Robert) Levine; niece and nephews, Joshua (Elissa) Levine, Rachel Rosenberg, and Mike (April) Levine; and great-nieces and -nephews, Talia, Sasha, Jake, Todd, Jessica, Lindsey, and Brooke. He was predeceased by his cherished parents, Bertha and Meyer Rothstein. He is also survived by many loving friends and colleagues.

Bill was Emeritus Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Public Health at UMBC. He was born to Meyer and Bertha Ann Rothstein in 1937. Bill earned his Bachelor of Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1959, his Master of Arts from the University of Minnesota in 1961, and his PhD from Cornell University in 1965. Dr. Rothstein then joined the UMBC faculty in 1966, the year when classes first began, making him one of the genuine founders of the university. He was promoted to associate professor in 1969 and to full professor in 1988. Prior to joining UMBC, he conducted research in the corporate sector.

During his time as the Director of the Master’s in Applied Sociology at UMBC, Bill touched the lives of innumerable students on their academic and professional journeys. He would meet individually with applicants, and provide one-on-one mentorship to students throughout their time in the program as they chose courses, developed their own research interests, and planned their next career steps. His support and encouragement of these students made him a beloved part of their UMBC experience. His important role in the lives of his students, however, did not end after graduation. His bustling social life in retirement was filled with continued friendship with former students and colleagues in the form of dinners, lunches, trips to the symphony, emails, and phone calls. Many of those students became wonderful friends and remained an important part of Bill’s life including during his final days.

Bill was passionate about his intellectual curiosity, as evidenced by his well-known and highly respected body of research on the history of medicine from a sociological perspective. Across the four books he published from 1972 to 2003, his research traced the history of American medicine from the beginning of the 19th century to the present, including disease rates in the United States and cross-nationally, causes and consequences of medical policy, and contemporary topics in public health. His work was read and appreciated by sociologists, physicians, epidemiologists, and others. He was also incredibly generous with his intellectual pursuits and published seven journal articles with his master’s students. He also contributed to the Baltimore Sun and other media outlets to raise awareness about public health topics. For Bill, his research was more than a profession--it was his life’s passion. At his retirement party from UMBC in 2013, Bill remarked that he was excited to have more time to continue his research. And, continue he did--with a new book published in 2018 of his research and commentary on the coronary heart disease pandemic of the 20th century. Up until the summer of 2020, Bill was still passionately researching and developing commentary on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Service to his department and to UMBC was also central to Dr. Rothstein’s career at UMBC. He served on virtually every standing committee in the department, was acting chair, and served multiple terms with distinction as Director of the MA Program in Applied Sociology. Under his guidance the program experienced dramatic growth and students were highly successful in developing professional careers throughout the Baltimore/Washington area. He will be missed by his family, friends, and colleagues.

A Virtual Funeral will be held on Thursday, December 10th, 2020 at 12pm. Interment is private. Virtual shiva will be held on Thursday, December 10 at 7pm. Please omit flowers. Contributions in his memory may be made to the Graduate Student Emergency Fund at UMBC. To make a gift in memory of Dr. Rothstein, please make checks payable to the UMBC Foundation and in the memo line designate the gift to the Graduate Student Emergency Fund, then mail to the UMBC Foundation, 1000 Hilltop Circle, Baltimore, MD 21250.
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We encourage you to share your most beloved memories of Dr. William "Bill" G. Rothstein here, so that the family and other loved ones can always see it. You can upload cherished photographs, or share your favorite stories, and can even comment on those shared by others.


Shalini Sahoo

Posted at 01:02pm
Happy Birthday in heaven, Dr. Rothstein. I hope you are having a better time up there.

Andrea Palmer

Posted at 07:40am
Dr. Rothstein was my mentor and advisor during my master's at UMBC from 2009-2010 and I will always remember him for his passion for and dedication to the field as well as his sense of humor. He was an extremely personable man which made working with him easy. He had a great deal of faith in me and was genuinely happy to see me excel both academically and professionally, which I found very encouraging and still means a lot to this day. Throughout my long academic career, Dr. Rothstein has been among the best and most caring professors I've had and I'll never forget him for that. Condolences to his family and friends, hopefully they can find peace in the knowledge that he is remembered and loved by many.

Laura Heslin Evans

Posted at 07:07pm
Dr. Rothstein was one of my favorite professors throughout my undergrad (2005) and grad (2007) degrees at UMBC. I have wonderful memories of his class discussions and he was integral in supporting my professional successes after graduation. He was also very kind and sweet to my children. I am so very saddened to hear of his passing. May peace be with all who loved him. My sincerest condolences, Laura Heslin Evans

Thomas Sova

Posted at 10:16pm
Dr. R enjoying a beer in a red solo cup. A wonderful man without pretense.

Christy Chapin

Posted at 12:53pm
How I will miss our Skylight Room and other lunches where we talked about UMBC and the history of medicine. I appreciate all your advice Bill and how you were worried about my son and me moving to the city of Baltimore. I've been thinking about you so much this past week. UMBC will not be the same without you.

Amy Barnes

Posted at 12:12pm
I began working at UMBC after Dr. Rothstein retired, but I enjoyed his frequent visits to the department when he was on campus to give a guest lecture, attend a basketball game, or one of our SSF lectures. Every year he brought the staff wall calendars from the many non-profits to which he contributed. He truly loved UMBC and his students. I so appreciate all of the memories I've read here and on Facebook.

Shalini Sahoo

Posted at 06:20pm
Beautiful story and pictures. Thank you for sharing, Linh!

Linh (Phuong) Kennell

Posted at 04:23pm
Dr. Rothstein was my thesis advisor at UMBC. He helped me so much throughout undergrad and grad school... come to think about it, he was the only reason I attended grad school. I came to the US from Vietnam with 10 siblings. Dr. R always loved hearing about my family and was always genuinely interested in how I was doing. I kept in touch with Dr. R after undergrad and he pushed me to go back to school for my master’s after letting him know I wanted to go to grad school but couldn’t afford it. Of course Dr. R found a TA position for me so I could go to school for free under that program. He was instrumental in my schooling, wrote me numerous recommendation letters, and definitely got me where I am today.

He was one of the kindest humans I’m ever come in contact with. His dedication and love for his students is something I’ll never forget... he is the epitome of a mentor and teacher... and will forever be one of my heroes.

Love you Dr. Rothstein, may you Rest In Peace.


Shalini Sahoo

Posted at 11:07am
Teatash Bhattacharyya De, a 2011 graduate of the Applied Sociology program, sharing her message and beloved memories of Dr. Rothstein:

Dr. Rothstein,

You are truly a soul who was pure, kind and giving. I remember entering your office as the shy and nervous student who arrived from India seeking for information on Applied Sociology. On the graduation day while posing for a picture you said" Teatash, you are not the shy girl anymore, look how much you have changed, how confident you look." Thank you for giving me an opportunity to pursue my graduate studies in applied sociology from umbc. I still remember the morning when i first received your acceptance letter into the program. My graduate studies in UMBC was the best and most cherished time of my life. Your knowledge on American public health and epidemiology was profound and truly exhibited during your lectures. During one these lectures, i promised you a homeopathy medicine bottle from India. I still cannot forget your childlike expression and excitement when i handed you a homeopathy medicine bottle after visiting India in the year 2010. I can still hear you saying "this homeopathy is so fascinating, how can they be an alternative to general medicine ?" You had an inherent curiosity for knowledge and a unique gift of connecting with your fellow students from different cultural backgrounds. I remember your love for indian food and many a times asking me the best indian restaurant in town. After graduation, you continued to support me as much as possible during job placements. I truly believe, it was a blessing and an honor to know you. You are among the few people who have etched meaningful and treasured memories in my life. You will be deeply missed. Rest in peace!

Much love,


Emily Souder

Posted at 10:37am
This one is from my MA graduation, in 2007.

Emily Souder

Posted at 08:14pm
(Shared from a post I made on Facebook, 2 days ago):
April 22, 2012. At my wedding.

Tonight, I found out that this man, Dr. William Rothstein, who meant so much to me, passed away this past week. I just found out, so I'm still processing. One of the first things that came to mind as I was looking for this photo, was how much I loved this man. I loved him, and I'm kicking myself for not seeing him more recently (pre-pandemic, of course).

Bill Rothstein was one of my first professors during my undergraduate program at UMBC. He had expectations unlike any teacher or professor I had known, and I stretched and grew SO much that semester. He didn't want the fluff that our AP teachers in high school has trained us to add into exam answers. He wanted us to be direct and to the point. We met in his office during this process of encouraging my mind to shift, and although he was direct, my gosh...this man was one of the most endearing people I ever met.

Fast forward to grad school, still in a mentorship role and guiding me through writing my analytical paper in order to graduate (so many conversations about tuberculosis and medication use in older adults, I can't even remember which was the topic of *that* paper), he would hold the infant I nannied while we discussed edits, cooing to her. He LOVED kids. So patient. The baby would humor him for a bit, and then would fuss to be handed back over.

When I graduated with my MA in Applied Sociology, he went out to dinner with my family. He loved restaurants and dining out, but was very particular. I still remember him commenting on how I prepared my after-dinner tea! We kept in touch after graduation, and whenever I would write him an e-mail to touch base, he would suggest getting together for a meal. Chef Paolino's, Hunan Taste, and The Royal Taj were some of his favorites. Mike even got to join us once he was in the picture. He would tell us stories upon stories about travel and adventures. I think I will always remember the simple story he told about having realized when he wanted to stay at UMBC as a professor.

Over the years, Bill would sometimes roll his eyes or shake his head at me, in response to my change in career or new life interest. It was never mean; it always seemed that he was saying, "I don't understand this girl or what she's doing or why, but I love her anyway."

Once I had my first kiddo, it became more difficult to keep in touch. He sent a UMBC t-shirt and bib, I sent holiday cards and greetings. I want to remember the last time I saw him, the last time I hugged him. But it's hard. All of these memories are swirling together.

On Friday, I dropped his holiday card into a mailbox in Towson. I had no idea. I want to pull it back. Go back in time. Send it earlier. Pick up the darn phone.

Mostly I just want a conversation. Some space. An opportunity. Well really, just a hug.

Shalini Sahoo

Posted at 06:00pm
Taken from Retriever 1975 (Digital Collections) 

Shalini Sahoo

Posted at 05:59pm
Great picture. Thank you, Mimi.
Here is a video of Dr. Rothstein sharing his earlier memories at UMBC. His talk starts at 13:10.
Event: Friends of the 50th Celebration: Sociology, Anthropology, Health Administration and Policy, and Gero

Shalini Sahoo

Posted at 05:53pm
It seems like some of the comments got deleted by the site.
Joshua Levine - Thank you for sharing your story. We continue to learn about all the great things he has done for the university.
Any way you could post your message again? It looks like it got deleted.

Shalini Sahoo

Posted at 05:11pm
I remember when I first met Dr. Rothstein in his office in 2011. The meeting was supposed to be brief but it lasted for 1.5 hours. It definitely went beyond academic and career counseling. Dr. Rothstein was more than a father figure to me.  He made it to all my tennis games played at UMBC. There were times that I had forgotten to share the last minutes details or delays but somehow he managed to be there for all. He even used to watch how my opponents played during our 5-minute warm up routine and would remind, or let's just say "scold" me for not catching their weakness early on. He only complimented me the day I lost a tough tennis match. I understood his ways on that day.
He was always there to push me up when things were easy and lift me up when things were rough. Over these years and during difficult times, he was my only real mentor and friend. He saw me go through several academic and immigration related hurdles and always provided his support and encouragement.  
We shared so many happy meals and laughter together. We had a very small wedding in 2019 that included just the parents, grandparents and siblings. He was there, happy and proud! My mother's fondest memories were that he chose to sit next to her, guided her about the Indian food she was about to eat, and how he enjoyed the wedding cake.
Since I did not have any family in the States, he took me to all the thanksgiving dinners at his dear friend's (Dr. Walt Sherwin's) home. Thanksgiving became an important tradition for me and I wanted to spend it with Dr. Rothstein always. This year was different as we could only speak over the phone, and I did not expect that it would be our last conversation. He was so eagerly waiting to attend my Ph.D. graduation and citizenship ceremonies.
I will cherish the memories and time we had together. Dr. Rothstein was a blessing to me and to many other students just like me. Rest in peace, Dr. Rothstein. 

Thomas Sova

Posted at 10:11am

I LOVE your photo. Yes, Dr. R. was UMBC's biggest fan and its greatest ambassador. He loved UMBC sports. He had UMBC MBB season tickets. He rarely missed a game. My seats were across court from his - we'd wave back and forth. But it wasn't only sports, he believed in the institution. I'd recommend going to the UMBC library archives and looking up Dr. Rothstein. He spoke truth to power and moved the University in a direction that has made it what it is today. Articles in the earliest issues of the Retriever Weekly report on Dr. R.'s strong push back on Chancellor Calvin Lee's vision for UMBC. Dr. R. wasn't having any of it - UMBC is so lucky to have had Dr. R. and his leadership and love for the University.

You can find the articles here. Just type in "ROTHSTEIN" - it's a treasure trove.


Mimi Dietrich

Posted at 09:30am
When UMBC celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2016, Bill joined some of us in telling Stoop Stories about the early days of UMBC. One of my favorite photos of that event was a photo of Bill’s UMBC socks. He truly loved UMBC.

Dale Edward Gough

Posted at 08:27am
In the Fall of 1966, I took a class with Bill - Intro to Sociology. In a Recitation section, I was quiet as the other students were responding and participating in the discussion. (I was quiet because I hadn't read all of the text in question.) Finally, Bill called on me, "Mr. Gough, what's your opinion?"
I mumbled through some response only to have him reply, "That's not correct" "How can my opinion not be correct?" "Because it is ill-formed, based on a lack of information."
Of course, he was right.
Over the next 50 years, we became friends and I deeply appreciated him as a teacher and supporter of UMBC, especially of those of us who knew him from UMBC's earliest days. I'll miss him at alumni affairs but he will be remembered as one of the Pioneers.

Connie Krach Pierson

Posted at 01:02pm
I was blessed to work with Dr. Rothstein as both a student and a colleague. His love of UMBC and Sociology was evident in every interaction. No matter the circumstances, he was always ready with a smile and a kind word. Then we would debate! He will be missed.

Thomas Sova

Posted at 11:47am
Heartbroken by the passing of my closest mentor, Dr. William Rothstein. Outside of family, no one has been more important to who I am than this man. A brilliant professor. A beautiful soul. A person who believed that I could do anything - he was my biggest cheerleader.

Dr. R. was a part of every important event in my life. My wedding, the Christenings of my boys, the graduation celebrations. He was also a constant advisor. We’d meet for lunch and talk for hours, we’d email regularly. He’s such an important part of who I am and what I’ve been able to accomplish. I will miss our time together.

With great love,
Alav ha-shalom Dr. R.

Ellen Z. Asher

Posted at 11:39am
I was a student of Dr Rothstein in 1975/76. He was fair kind and I admired him very much. One of the reasons I ever became a teacher was because he was always so enthusiastic about his teachings - Thank you Dr Rothstein for making a difference to many UMBC students . Ellen Zlotowitz Asher

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