[visionlist] Remembering Bill (William) Epstein
Jessica.Witt at colostate.edu
Fri Jan 3 13:18:56 -04 2020
We are greatly saddened to report the death of William Epstein on December 17, 2019. Bill’s long and distinguished academic career began at the University of Kansas in 1959, continued at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1968-1996, and reached a wonderful conclusion in his retirement at the University of Virginia. Although trained in Gestalt psychology by Irv Rock at the New School for Social Research and mentored by Fritz Heider, his early work investigated classical problems in visual perception such as depth perception and perceptual learning. Bill was the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance from 1982 – 1987. During the initial years, he edited the journal without associate editors, not so much because he needed to be in control, but because he wanted to personally ensure the quality of everything published under his editorship. In part due to his experiences as editor (during which he encouraged young Gibsonians such as Bill Warren and Jim Todd), in part because of his friendship with Eleanor Gibson, in part due to his work in philosophy with Gary Hatfield, and in part due to the influence of his wife, Sheena Rogers, Bill’s own research increasingly adopted a Gibsonian perspective. This research reached its apogee working with Denny Proffitt and his students at UVA.
In addition to his research, teaching, and editing, Bill is fondly remembered for his amazing mentoring of young professors, astute chairmanship of the Department at Wisconsin, and his wisdom obtained through unusual life experiences. He was raised as an Orthodox Jew on New York’s Lower Eastside, but he was orphaned early. At the age of 16 he was in Israel during that country’s War of Independence, and he had to live by his wits to survive both during the war and during his return home when he was attacked in Marseille. Somehow, all of that led to an extraordinary and kind person.
Bill was predeceased by his first wife, Arlene Cohen Epstein, and his first daughter, Sara. He is survived by his second daughter, Edith, his wife Sheena Rogers, their daughter Maggie. Sheena can be contacted at sheenarogers at mac.com<mailto:sheenarogers at mac.com>.
Jessica K. Witt
Professor of Psychology
Soges Fellow 2019-2010
2017 APA's Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution to Psychology
2017 APS Presidential Symposium Speaker: https://www.psychologicalscience.org/video/how-our-bodies-do-and-dont-shape-our-minds.html
2015 APS's Janet Spence Award for Transformational Early Career Contributions
2014 Psychonomic Society's Steven Yantis Early Career Award
Colorado State University
Office: BSB 241
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