Bill Sonnenschein

21 January 2009

William "Bill" Sonnenschein, a senior lecturer on leadership and communication at the Haas School of Business, passed away suddenly on Dec. 29 in Madagascar. He died from heart failure following a brief gastric illness.

Sonnenschein, 59, was in Madagascar as a special adviser to that nation's president, helping the country establish an Office of Leadership and Communication for Sustainable Development. His wife, Ericka Lutz, an author, lecturer, and writing consultant at the Haas School, and his youngest daughter, Anaya, were with him when he died in the town of Maraontsetra on Madagascar's east coast.

An Alameda native who lived in Oakland, and a lecturer at Haas since 1992, Sonnenschein headed up the leadership-communication program for the school's MBA programs.

He also taught business communication to undergraduate students and delivered an annual "Speaking for Management" workshop in the Haas School's Business for Arts, Sciences, and Engineering (BASE) summer program for undergrads.

In addition, he taught courses on leadership communication and on leading and leveraging diversity for the school's Center for Executive Education, and served as a faculty adviser (and executive-board member) to Young Entrepreneurs at Haas, an outreach program for local middle- and high-school students. Over the course of his career, Sonnenschein taught well over 10,000 students at Berkeley and other Bay Area colleges and universities.

Before becoming a teacher, Sonnenschein was active in the civil-rights movement and a leader in the Bay Area draft-resistance movement; he was a key organizer of Vietnam Summer in 1967. He was also involved in the Bay Area music scene as a roadie for Transatlantic Railroad, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Big Brother and the Holding Company.

He is survived by his wife; by his children Aaron of Los Angeles, Rachel of Santa Cruz, and Anaya Sonnenschein; and sisters Susan Sonnenschein of Santa Rosa and Sherry Alcala of Victoria, B.C., as well as a granddaughter, daughter-in-law, niece, and many cousins, in-laws, and friends.

The Haas School and the College of Natural Resources are planning a joint memorial service for later this month. The Sonnenschein family plans to hold a public memorial service for him in March.

In lieu of flowers the family asks that donations be made to Balls Without Borders, UNICEF, or Doctors Without Borders.

—Valerie Gilbert, Haas School of Business