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William A. Satariano
In Memoriam

William A. Satariano

Professor of Epidemiology and Community Health Sciences
Endowed Chair of Geriatrics

UC Berkeley
William Anthony Satariano, who was known as “Bill” to colleagues, friends, and family, was a revered and beloved professor of public health at the University of California, Berkeley, whose work helped aging people lead healthier lives. Professor Satariano’s distinguished career spanned more than 40 years – almost 30 of which he spent at UC Berkeley, where he earned numerous accolades, including a Fulbright Senior Scholarship, the Alfred W. Childs Distinguished Service Award for Faculty, and the American Cultures Innovation in Teaching Award.

Bill's expertise and research interests were in the field of aging and public health. He studied a range of issues related to healthy aging, including cancer rehabilitation and survival, the built environment and health behaviors, and technology and the promotion of physical activity among older adults. Satariano contributed to more than 120 scholarly publications during his career. He served as a principal investigator on research studies ranging from the effects of Agent Orange and its link to cancer to the use of mobile digital technology on walking and cognitive health in older populations.

He published two books, the latest in 2017 with his collaborator and colleague Professor Marlon Maus, examining the interplay between biological, social and environmental factors affecting the health of older people: Aging, Place, and Health: A Global Perspective.

Born December 12, 1946, to Anthony and Mary Satariano, Bill grew up in San Jose, California. Early on, he demonstrated a passion for learning. During long study sessions alone in his room, his aunts pleaded with him to come join the family because "your head is going to explode." He was the first in his family to attend college, at Santa Clara University, earning a degree in sociology. He went on to Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, where he obtained a master’s and doctorate of philosophy in sociology. 

At Purdue, Bill met Enid Reichard, who had an office down the hall. They were married in 1972 and had two children, Erin and Adam. Bill's career took the family to New York, where he taught at Alfred University, and then to UC Berkeley, where he earned an M.P.H. in behavioral sciences and an M.S. in epidemiology. The family spent 10 years in Detroit, Michigan, where Bill served as a deputy director at the Michigan Cancer Foundation. 

Bill was lured back to UC Berkeley in 1989 to join the faculty in the School of Public Health. He was one of the pioneers in the field of social epidemiology where he combined his experience in sociology with a passion for public health. He was a strong proponent of "aging in place," designing walkable communities that better integrate older populations. Bill embraced technology and with colleagues, developed techniques to use mobile devices, not only to help older people be more physically active, but also to empower them to conduct their own assessments of neighborhood walkability and identify risks that could then be rectified. "His life's work led to an immeasurable number of older people living healthier, happier, and longer lives," the university said in a statement.

According to Professor Maus, Satariano’s final project was an application called WordWalk aimed at encouraging older adults to engage in physical activity and simultaneously exercise their minds in a community setting, which he tested at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Satariano was excited about the academic aspects of the work, but even more about the prospect of helping seniors. In the words of his colleague, Professor Len Syme, “[Seniors] are fundamentally ignored — Bill brought a spotlight to their circumstance.”

Bill was a dedicated and inspiring teacher. He codirected the concurrent master’s program in public health and city planning, and directed the hugely popular undergraduate major in public health, which under Bill's leadership was rated as the top in the country. He took enormous pride in the success of his students and was dedicated to improving the quality of teaching. 

His colleagues commented that Bill was always the first to volunteer for challenging assignments. He transformed a traditional community health lecture course into a highly interactive class in which students, working in teams, got hands-on experience planning for public health emergencies. The course attracted ever-increasing enrollments and earned Bill the prestigious American cultures award for innovation in teaching. 

Kara MacLeod, a doctoral student under Satariano who nominated him for the Zak Sabry Mentorship Award in 2015, recalled an instance, among many, where Satariano, after walking by her office, dropped what he was doing in order to help her. “It’s not every day you see a professor sitting at his research assistant’s desk,” MacLeod said.

“Bill was smart, funny, self-deprecating, and inevitably willing to lend a hand,” said Arthur Reingold, professor and division head of epidemiology. “He made any class or meeting more enjoyable. He will be deeply missed by his colleagues, students, family, and many friends.”

“Even though he was a world expert on aging, you would never know it by his humble demeanor,” said Maus. Satariano was regularly described as an incredibly generous spirit who brought immense kindness, humility, and his trademark self-deprecating humor to everything he did.

For all of Bill's professional accomplishments, he considered family his greatest achievement. Bill and Enid shared a love for bookstores, movies, theater, and the arts. They travelled widely, with trips to Europe and Australia, regular hikes at Gold Lake, and a visit to London to visit their children and grandchildren in 2016, before his final illness. Known for his quick wit and self-effacing humor, Bill eagerly shared stories of the grandchildren, whose activities brought him tremendous joy. He had an easy and laugh-filled relationship with them all, and he took great interest in all their pursuits. His family will forever miss his unwavering love. 

“My dad’s professional accomplishments were considerable, but he was an even better father and we feel so lucky to have had him,” said Satariano’s son Adam Satariano.

Bill died on May 28, 2017, at age 70, surrounded by family at John Muir Hospital in Walnut Creek, California, from an infection and kidney failure. He was predeceased by his father, Anthony, and mother, Mary. He is survived by his wife, Enid, and two children, Erin Schwass (Ken) of Chicago, Illinois, and Adam Satariano (Nickie) of London, England; sisters Marilynn Wacker (John) and Patricia Tallerico (Frank); brothers-in-law Claude Reichard (Susanna) and Eric Reichard (Pamela); four grandchildren – George and Nate Schwass, and Leo and Kai Satariano; and nieces, nephews, and cousins.

A memorial fund has been set up in his name at the School of Public Health.
Marlon Maus
Meredith Minkler