William J. “Bill” McLaughlin

Bill McLaughlin Obit PhotoWilliam ‘Bill’ McLaughlin

Bill McLaughlin, 68, passed away Saturday, September 16, 2017, at his home in Moscow, from multiple myeloma.  He was born in Akron, Ohio, in 1949, to Robert N. and Doris M. McLaughlin, the second of six children.   In 1967, after graduating from high school, he headed west to the mountains to attend the University of Colorado, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Economics in 1972.  He then pursued a Ph.D. at Colorado State University and finished in January, 1977, just before jumping into a U-Haul and driving up to Moscow to begin his position as an Assistant Professor at the University of Idaho in the Department of Wildland Recreation Management.  In 1974 he married Debbie Myers in a Boulder county park with a view to the Rocky Mountains, and in 1985, the couple welcomed a son, Julien.

Bill served in multiple leadership roles while at the University of Idaho.  He chaired his department in the 1980’s (now the Department of Natural Resources and Society) and served as Dean of the College of Natural Resources from June 2008 to August 2010, after which he accepted a special assignment in the Provost’s Office and Office of Research and Economic Development. He also served on many college and university committees, including president of the Faculty Senate, as well as in various professional organizations. His research, teaching and outreach were recognized with numerous college, university and state awards.  He retired from the University of Idaho in 2014 with the rank of professor emeritus.

As a professor, Bill mentored generations of students and faculty. He was an innovative teacher, a demanding researcher, and always sought to subvert the dominant paradigm. He had a profound impact on the field of conservation, convinced that to be successful, conservation needed to be an interdisciplinary endeavor with social and human sciences at the core. As a result, he established the University of Idaho as a national leader in social science research methods. Leading teams of researchers, Bill helped establish the fields of land use and conservation planning, and protected area management, in the U.S. and internationally. He thoroughly enjoyed his time working internationally and nurturing future generations of conservation leaders. The world is a greener and better place to be and will continue to be so through the legacy he leaves behind in the conservation leaders he mentored and empowered across the globe. His work led him to the far corners of the globe, spanning six continents, and places in between, where his brand of participatory inquiry lives on.

Bill’s legacy also involved enduring contributions to natural resource management in Idaho and the Pacific Northwest. In the 1980’s he led a long-term study of public use and perceptions on the many wild and scenic rivers in Idaho. He established Idaho as a leader in the emerging field of natural resource based tourism and directed several multi-year studies of tourism and travel in Idaho. Bill had a special genius for involving people in decision making and helped many communities, agencies and organizations with his facilitation skills. He championed participatory research practices and always sought to include diverse voices in his research findings.

With his wife Debbie and son Julien, he built an international family of scholars by welcoming students and scientists into their home and lives.   A dedicated cook, Bill used food and wine as a way to bring people closer together. Many discoveries and allegiances were made around his dining table. He befriended the families and parents of many of his students and hosted them in his Moscow home over the years, and he and Debbie visited many when they travelled.

Bill is survived by his wife, Debbie, of the home; son Julien, daughter-in-law Candal, grandson Anderson, of Denver; mother Doris and sister Susie, also of Denver; brother Jeff (Lynne), of McMinnville, Oregon; brother Kurt (Joni), of Orlando, Florida;  and numerous nieces and nephews.  He was preceded in death by his father Robert, and brothers Bob and Eric.

Bill embraced life with an insatiable curiosity and a remarkable ability to turn obstacles and challenges into opportunities. He constantly sought out diversity and inspired those around him to strive for their best selves. His dedication and passion, his zest for life, and love of family and friends will be missed, but will endure forever in the lives and accomplishments of those he mentored and loved.  He would not have wanted us to mourn his passing, rather he would want us to celebrate life—his and ours—by continuing to build bridges in place of walls.

A celebration of life will be held on November 11 in Moscow; details will be announced soon.  For suggestions of memorial donations in Bill’s honor, contact ui.rrt.css.family@gmail.com.  Donations may also be made to Kindred Hospice of Pullman.

Arrangements have been entrusted to Short’s Funeral Chapel, Moscow, and online condolences may be sent to www.shortsfuneralchapel.net.

5 Responses to William J. “Bill” McLaughlin

  1. Chris and Steve Talbott says:

    Dear Debbie,
    We were so sorry to hear about Bill’s passing. It must be very difficult these days to get used to your new way of life. I’ll be glad to see you and talk when you next come to yoga or we can just have lunch or a walk. Take good care of yourself.

  2. Ellen McKenzie says:

    Bill took me under his wings when I began work at the UI in the Vice Provost’s Office back in 2005. He provided meaningful information and advice that helped me survive those first six months in a really different and challenging environment than I had previously experienced. He was kind and thoughtful and I thoroughly enjoyed working with him. He went out of his way to be helpful. He is an amazing person in so many ways and I know you will miss him. I’m sorry for your loss!

  3. Pam Farmer says:

    Bill also took me under his wings as I began my doctoral research. I was new to research, its terminology, and its application. Bill seemed to recognize that and helped me explore what didn’t make sense, all the while challenging me to stretch conceptually beyond what was familiar. My doctoral work was based in the College of Education, I was taking courses from the College of Business, and my research was based in the Wilderness Experience Program Office in the Department of Resource, Recreation, and Tourism in what was the College of Forestry at that time. So, I was a part of the College of Forestry, but as an “outsider”. Bill offered opportunities to learn and to develop skills in facilitation that I very much needed. He could have focused only on those graduate students from Forestry, but instead, he opened doors that brought clarity where it was needed as he challenged me to learn. I will always be grateful for that generous and welcoming spirit.

  4. Linda Morris says:

    Dear Debbie. I was so saddened to hear about Bill. All I could think was “what a fight he made” over the last few years. He surely was an inspiration to me keep going on with life especially in the dark days that I was facing at the time. He not only an inspirational friend, but a superb colleague. I feel honored to know and work with him my last years at the University. My heartfelt sorrow to you, Julian and family.

  5. Suyapa Dominguez & Jaime Bustillo says:

    Dear Debbie & Julien,

    Our condolences to you, Julien and extended family.

    Dr. McLaughlin, was our Professor while we were ROCAP students at the University of Idaho, 1993-1995. He was an excellent professor and extraordinary human being. He was very special to us and had a great impact in our lives.

    We are so saddened to know that a conservation leader is gone and also a good friend. We will continue his legacy of principles, ideas and teachings in the Central American region and other parts of the world.

    His memory will be sherished and always kept in our hearts.

    Thinking of you,

    Suyapa & Jaime.

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