Bernard "Bernie" Elliot Rollin PHD

February 18, 1943November 19, 2021

Bernie was born in Brooklyn, NY, in 1943, the son of Philip and Yetta Rollin. He met his wife of 57 years, Linda, when they were freshmen at City College of New York in 1960, but it took him a year to ask her on their first date. They were married in 1964, and immediately sailed for Scotland where Bernie had a Fulbright fellowship at the University of Edinburgh. He returned to earn a PhD in Philosophy from Columbia University and happy to trade New York City for then-bucolic Fort Collins, accepted a professorship at Colorado State University in 1969, where he would spend the next 51 years, retiring as University Distinguished Professor in 2020. After establishing himself as a pure philosopher in the 1970s, he shifted focus and dedicated the rest of his career to the welfare of animals in medicine, research, agriculture, and society. Employing his dazzling intellect, pragmatic approach, ferocious intensity, and in-your-face style, he effected extraordinary change across the spectrum of animal welfare, earning innumerable friends and enemies along the way. Considered by many the “father of veterinary medical ethics,” he taught the first ever course on the subject, and fundamentally changed the way veterinarians are taught and how they practice. He co-wrote the 1982 federal laws that enforce humane treatment of animals in research. As a consequence, he has been described as the person “who alleviated more animal pain than anyone in history.” He published more than 20 books, some of which have been translated into Italian, Japanese, Farsi and more, hundreds of scholarly articles, and lectured thousands of times across the globe to audiences ranging from surgeons to schoolchildren, researchers to ranchers, zealots to zookeepers.

He was fiercely dedicated to his family, and despite his professional productivity, always made his wife and son his first priority. He loved sharing his passions for horseback riding, weightlifting and motorcycles with his son, Michael. For many years the sound of a Harley-Davidson in Fort Collins was likely to be accompanied by his bushy beard blowing from under his helmet-less head in the wind with Michael (helmeted) hanging on from the seat behind. He had boundless love for Linda in her unwavering support and care and took immense pride in Michael’s character and accomplishments. In addition to wife Linda and son Michael, Bernie is survived by his brother Robert (Gwen) Rollin of Youngstown, Ohio, niece Susan (Adam) Dunn of Perrysburg, Ohio, and grandchildren Daniel and Lily. Bernie was also predeceased by cat, Mao, and dog, Helga, and perhaps a hundred other four-legged members of the Rollin household who loved him and whom he loved. The family would like to believe that they are now reunited at the Rainbow Bridge, where Bernie is seated on a nearby bench, being greeted my innumerable wags, and licks and purrs from an immense lapful of furry friends.

Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at for the Rollin family.

A Celebration of Bernie's Life for the public will be held at a later date in the Spring.

Memorial Contributions may be made to American Humane Association on behalf of Bernie and his family.


No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.


Bernard "Bernie" Elliot Rollin PHD

have a memory or condolence to add?

Ann Hess

December 2, 2021

I had the good fortune to know Bernie as a colleague at CSU. While I did not know him well, it was clear to see his strong personality and equally strong conviction to always do the right thing. These traits were complemented by his sense of humor. He will be remembered and missed.

Todd Hagenbuch

December 2, 2021

Dr. Rollin co-taught a class at CSU I took as an undergrad; I believe it was Ethics in Animal Agriculture. The class made us all think about what we did as livestock producers and encouraged us to be better- in every way. I had the good fortune to hear Dr. Rollin speak at several conferences in later years and appreciated that the spunk and passion he showed me as a student was shared with others outside of academia. As a CSU Extension ag educator, Dr. Rollin's lessons help inform my programming and his ideas and passion live on in many, many students. Thanks to his family for sharing him with all of us.

Ilene Wical

December 2, 2021

So many wonderful memories of time and conversations with Bernie. He challenged those in animal welfare as well as those in research and animal production to consider how we interact with the creatures in our care. How I will miss his wisdom and tenacity to make the world a better place for animals. Rest in peace sweet Bernie.

Michelle Eccellente Stevenson

December 1, 2021

My deepest condolences to Linda and family. Between 1988 and 1992, I worked in the Philosophy department office part-time while I was a full-time student. I have such fond memories of Bernie. His swagger, his tell-it-like-it-is, his beard, his glasses, his smile, his stories and humor. I remember seeing such love between him and Linda and thinking how cool it would be to work with your beloved spouse. He brightened up the office and will be missed. Linda and family, I am sending you strength during this impossible time. May Bernie's love hold you in peace.

Nathanial Bork

December 1, 2021

Dr. Rollin was my thesis advisor and I based my own pedagogy after his courses. He was an inspiration as a teacher and a person and I've tried to carry on his legacy in my own classrooms as best as I've been able. I'm saddened that I didn't get to tell him that he was right about weightlifting and motorcycles.

He was one of the best. <3

Liz McGrew

December 1, 2021

I am so sorry to hear of your family’s great loss. I remember Bernie periodically driving up to our school on his motorcycle to pick up his son, Michael. He had done this before, and I knew Bernie and Michael who had been one of my outstanding students!
One evening Bernie was picking up Michael from school. Another teacher seeing this bearded motorcyclist who sat upon a large, rather noisy motorcycle in our parking asked me if we should be concerned. I just chuckled and said, "No, there's no need to be concerned. It's Bernie Rollin." And then we watched Michael run toward his father and hop on the motorcycle behind his father...and off they went.
It was so obvious that their relationship was one of mutual admiration and love.

Temple Grandin grandin

December 1, 2021

All my graduate srudents were required to take a class from Dr. Rollin because he always made them think deeply about the ethics of how animals were treated. He would always ask students- Just because we are capable of doing something, should we do it? He was a supporter of animal agriculture, but he made it very clear that some practices needed to be changed to improve animal welfare. He wasalo a great friend.

Cara Neth

November 30, 2021

I loved Bernie. He used to hang out and talk with me when he was in the President's Office waiting to meet with Tony or Mark Gill. There were several times when I would laugh to see other visitors out in the lobby looking around to see what all the cussing was about, but we had some great conversations. He was so generous with his time and knowledge. When my mom was teaching middle school, he was always willing to come out and talk to the kids. He was a dear man, a ferocious spirit, and a lovely friend. I am so grateful to have known him. Linda, all of my love to you and your family.

Ralph Switzer

November 30, 2021

Our sincere sympathy to Linda, Michael and extended family for your great loss.

In 1998, Bernie co-founded Optibrand Ltd., LLC. The company name came from Bernie and Linda. It was carefully selected and has stood the test of time. Linda has also made many other valuable contributions.

Within Optibrand, Bernie created global awareness of humane animal welfare and as well as source trace back for food safety in meat. Bernie brought technology to veterinary ethics and food safety. He proved that veterinary ethics and business could coexist.

Bernie will be missed by his Optibrand family and so many others in academia and business. Bernie left a legacy for Optibrand to carry forward. His influence will last forever. Optibrand will attempt to honor his life by continuing the work he began at Optibrand.

We have the utmost respect and admiration for his inspiration and accomplishments. We are all honored to consider him a friend as well as a business associate. Thank you Bernie for your contributions to human and animal welfare. You will be forever remembered.

May your memory be a blessing.

Steven McCulloch

November 30, 2021

Dear Bernie,
We didn't know each other too well but the couple of times we met I felt we got along well and there was a mutual professional respect - you a philosopher that had spent much of your career in a vet school, and me a vet with an interest in ethics that had gone on to study philosophy.
I believed you helped me more than once during my career, which I give my profound thanks for. Your work also influences my own thoughts and I will continue to disseminate your ideas to the next generation in class.
It was a priviledge knowing you, if only a little. Rest in peace.