Friday, 11 October 2019

Bill Seiter

In 1970, I applied to exactly one university: The one I could afford (I was putting myself through school) --- The University of California.  After visiting Irvine and San Diego, I made UCSD my first choice.  I didn't want to go to a large campus like Berkeley or UCLA or the ag campuses like Davis or Riverside.  Of course now UCSD is the third largest campus.  But I digress.  I chose Revelle College because I liked the concept of a liberal arts education (even though I am a nerd through and through).  As I recently found out, Revelle was modeled after the University of Chicago.

So, when I arrived at Revelle, I was assigned to a four story single sex dorm (as was the custom of the day).  From my very first day in the university, I knew that the university was an exceptional place.  And I met all kinds of interesting and smart people.  One of them was Bill Seiter.

I don't remember how I fell in with Bill, but I know it was freshman year because I also met his precocious sister Ellen (possibly at a dance?).  I also remember discussing the differences in Calculus (Bill was taking honors Calculus).  After the first two years of requirements, Bill decided to major in Linguistics.  Bill could have done anything, he was incredibly bright.  He chose linguistics because he liked languages.

In the senior year, Bill, myself and Don Eigler (of atom fame) decided to rent a beach bungalow in nearby Del Mar (there is no way an undergraduate could do that now).  Bill and I had the bedrooms, Don had the garage (where, as I recall, he installed a water bed).  The house was two houses from the Del Mar beach.  By senior year, Bill was already taking graduate classes and had been accepted into the graduate school at UCSD for the following year with an NSF Fellowship.  I remember when he was taking a Field Work class.  The "informant" was Navaho and Bill used to come home with  Navaho words to share.

The house in Del Mar was an absolute fun time: Bill and Don were great housemates.  We had people over for dinner all the time (I was really picking up speed on cooking).  I remember once I decided to make a shrimp recipe and rode my bike up to Solana Beach to a fish store.  When I returned, Bill was the one who knew what "devein" meant.  I didn't --- good thing he knew.

Bill was also a really good musician (he may have been a music minor like me, I don't recall).  He played the french horn in high school and could also play  piano.  But Bill was also a member of a recorder trio: I played soprano, Tyde Richards played alto and Bill played tenor.  We were playing a fair amount of renaissance music (I remember Machaut in particular) when we decided to tackle the Hindemith trio.  When we practiced (at home in Del Mar), we would eventually become quite giddy from lack of oxygen.  And then we'd stop and tell jokes and stories.

At the end of senior year, I left for graduate school at Berkeley and Bill and Don rented a different house in Solana Beach for the next year.  I saw Bill at least once more (at a wedding) but I haven't seen him in person for more than 40 years.

After Bill received his PhD, he decided to go to law school.   I believe firmly that Bill was so good that he could have obtained a faculty position in linguistics at a top school.  But his father was a lawyer (in fact a law professor at DePaul in Chicago), his older sister was  a lawyer and so I think that influenced him a good deal.  He went to Boalt (part of Berkeley).  And, as usual, graduated with honors.  He chose to practice trademark law --- I never asked him why.

I should note that it was through Bill that I met the entire Seiter clan. I found out about Bill's sudden death from his sister Ellen.

Bill was very funny (at least I thought so) and I found him constantly amusing.  But underneath it all was an amazing intelligence and scintillating mind.


Simple and Sustainable said...

Hello Mark,
Your Kogitations about Bill triggered many happy memories for me. I knew Bill before and during High School and we roomed together in San Diego before he moved to Del Mar. I remember you because of your college hair and beard and I remember Don Eigler because of his brain. I was at Muir College in Sociology and had the good fortune to know all of Bills siblings as well as his mother. It was fascinating and stimulating to spend time in the company of such accomplished people. Setting aside their unbelievable academic accomplishments, it seemed to me that all of them had unlimited musical and artistic skills and used them. As I recall it (subject to a reality check) they had an upright piano in the house that was well used. As it was all I could do to finish high school (working full time) and getting accepted to UCSD on a special program, his family was a wonder (they giggled about people that only had a Masters) I think they all had multiple Doctorates. Bill was and will be my closest friend. He introduced me to Erik Satie and many other musical luminaries and of course I remember him playing horn in High School as well as flute and recorder. We had a great interplay with one of our English Teachers because we used a secret code to communicate in her class. Luckily we did not drive her totally crazy and I understand she remembered us both with a kind of puzzled fondness. They ladies we dated in high school were also best friends.

Bill has been in touch over the years and recently increased his communication with me so the news of his passing hit me very hard. He was supposed to visit me in my home on October 6th.

On the plus side, I am back in touch with his family to remember his many good qualities and share good memories. I met my wife of 40 years through friends of his and nothing can replace the life I have shared with her. Bill was part of my sons life and in many ways I was able to guide my son toward Seiter-like success. My son was a Trustees Scholar at USC, worked at JPL for several years and then went to Boalt Hall as well to work in Patent and IP.

I could say so much more but wanted to share that Bill was a great positive influence in my life and will be deeply missed.

E Seiter said...

William J. Seiter died October 5, 2019 at his home in Topanga Canyon. A memorial will be held December 17 at 2PM n Los Angeles (for more information, or to send a remembrance to be read at the memorial, please email One of five Seiters to attend UCSD between 1964 and 1979, Bill received his BA at (Revelle, 1974) and his MA and PhD (1979) in Linguistics at UCSD, before attending law school in Berkeley where he worked on the California Law Review and received his JD with honors. After working for Skadden Arps and O’Melveny and Myers, he specialized in international trademark law, operating his firm Seiter Legal Studio out of Singapore and Santa Monica. For his work in the Asia/Pacific region with the International Trademark Association, Bill received the award for the Advancement of Trademark Law. Always eager to surf, to travel and to learn new things, Bill spoke more than seven languages and never encountered a musical instrument he couldn’t play. He co-authored with Ellen Seiter “ The Creative Artists’ Legal Guide: Copyright, Trademark and Contracts in Film and Digital Media Production” published by Yale University Press. He is survived by his wife (and legal partner) Attorney Kiran Dharsan Seiter, his son Thom Akizawa Seiter, his brother Frank and sister Ellen. He is predeceased by his brother Charles and sister Rosemary Morrison.

Simple and Sustainable said...

Hello again Mark. I hope that you and yours are well and happy. Reading my first posting/reaction to your Kogitations about Bill I realized I may have inadvertently given your college hair precedence over your natural intelligence, outgoing personality and academic success at Revelle College and beyond. You and Don Eigler were both excellent company for us in those days, and memorable and enduring friends to Bill. He remembered you both to me many times over the years. Reading Ellen's post reminded me of the unique academic success of the Seiter family. What I remember more was the emotional closeness and unanimity they demonstrated for each other and to the world. To my way of thinking he and I shared a strong and unique friendship because of many emotional and situational parallels in our young lives and our long term connection. My world is not the same now, but better for having had a friend like Bill.