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1942 - 2015
ROTH, WILLIAM DAVID “BILL” 1942 - 2015 William David Roth or “Bill”to his friends and family, 72, of Albany, NY, lived an extraordinary life and gracefully passed away in his home on the morning of March 17th, 2015. Bill was the proud father of Daniel Noah Hand Roth, and the dedicated husband of Carol Chisholm Roth. Born on June 1st, 1942 in New Haven, Connecticut, Bill was the loving son of Dr. Stefanie Zelmer Roth and Dr. Oscar Roth. From his father, Bill learned a passion for meaningful work, dedication and a remarkable ability to overcome life’s obstacles. From his mother, he learned hospitality, openness of mind, good humor, and warmth. His parents’ escape from the holocaust and dedication to helping others as physicians inspired in Bill a life-long pursuit of progressive social change. With a mix of absurd humor, brilliant insight, creative genius, tenacity, and grit, Bill created a life of meaning and action, and helped build a better world than the one he was born into. Bill entered into public life through his opposition to the War in Vietnam. He was not afraid to demonstrate, nor was he afraid of arrest. From anti-war protests in California to Paris to Vermont, Bill showed up at the front lines. After graduating with honors from Yale University, Bill built an impressive career as a politically engaged artist-intellectual. Bill pursued a passion for film making and earned his PhD in 1970 from the University of California at Berkeley examining the political symbolism of the western movie genre. All the while, he was falling in love with the silent films of Buster Keaton and the ganster films of Coppola and Scorsese. Over time, Bill’s politics and personal experience of neuromuscular disability merged. Bill became one of the founders of America’s disability rights movement. He helped establish the framework for the Federal Disabilities Act, and his work over the years addressed the architectural, transportation, and technological barriers to living with a disability in the United States. He joined the Carnegie Council on Children and co-authored several landmark studies including, “The Unexpected Minority: Handicapped Children in America” and “The Grand Illusion: Stigma, Role Expectations, and Communication.” These are widely acknowledged as providing the analytical basis for the disability rights movement as well as fostering a new academic discipline, Disability Studies. Bill’s work emphasized the disability movement’s core vision: the most socially incapacitating aspects of disability are not the inescapable consequence of biology, but the result of countless social decisions that do not acknowledge the needs of people with different bodies and, indeed, discriminate against people whose bodies are different. Bill went on to pioneer the use of computer technology for people with disabilities and, in 1984, founded the Center for Computing and Disability at the University at Albany, one of the first such centers in the nation. As a long time professor at the University at Albany School of Social Welfare, he taught courses in Social Policy and Disability Studies. More recently, Bill’s work focused on exposing the neo-liberal dismantling of the U.S. welfare state and includes his books, The Assault on Social Policy and his co-edited work, Globalization, Social Justice, and the Helping Professions. Never shy, Bill embodied the idea that the personal is political and shared his deepest fears and triumphs through two autobiographical books, Letters to Daniel and Movement: A Memoir of Disability, Cancer, and the Holocaust. Through these books, he opened up the struggles of his own body and his family for a broader discussion about the human condition, and how we learn to love and care for each other, in a world full of hostility and greed. Indeed, Bill was a courageous man, with a deep love of family, art, science, politics, and above all, wacky jokes. Brilliant, imaginative, inventive and utterly fearless, Bill inspired those of us who had the good fortune to know him. Funny, sincere, vulnerable and heartfelt, Bill cherished his relationships with family, friends, and colleagues. Bill is survived by his wife, Carol Chisholm Roth (Albany, NY), his son Daniel Noah Hand Roth (Albany, NY), his sister Evelyn Fogarasi (Bethesda, MD), his niece Simone Roth Fogarasi (New Orleans, LA), and his cousin Diane Roth Levy (Boynton Beach, FL), and his faithful caretaker Emelia Manso Rivera) (Albany, NY). Funeral services will be held at 3pm on Thursday, March 19th, at the Robert E. Shure Funeral Home, 543 George St., in New Haven, CT. Immediately following the services, he will be laid to rest in the Keser Israel Memorial Park, 11 Farwell St., West Haven, CT. Friends and colleagues are welcome to join the family to observe shiva after 5:00pm at 606 Saddle Ridge Rd., Orange, CT. In lieu of flowers, the family respectfully requests that donations be made to the William Roth Endowed School of Social Welfare Scholarship. This scholarship fund will advance the education and career aspirations of School of Social Welfare students with disabilities who demonstrate academic achievement. Checks may be payable to the University at Albany Foundation, 1400 Washington Ave. UAB 226, Albany, NY 12222 or www.albany.edu/give. Please note, “William Roth Endowed School of Social Welfare Scholarship” in the comments section online or in the memo portion of the check. www.shurefuneralhome.com.
Published in The New Haven Register on Mar. 19, 2015
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