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Remembering Susan Hardwick, Educator, Mentor and Scholar

Beloved geography professor Susan Hardwick died on Nov. 11 at age 70, after a brief illness.

Hardwick, who joined the UO Department of Geography in 2000 and retired in 2010, is remembered for her passion, enthusiasm and longtime dedication as a teacher, mentor, advisor, researcher and national leader in the field of geography education.

Even in retirement, she continued to teach two courses each year, mentor graduate students and future teachers and serve as co-director of the UO’s summer graduate program in geographic education.

“Susan’s tireless efforts, her innovation in creating new programs and her capacity to build bridges where other people saw chasms, have given her a special place in the pantheon of scholars who have changed education.” said W. Andrew Marcus, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and a professor of geography.

Hardwick’s career began in 1968, with a teaching job in a one-room schoolhouse in Oroville, CA. She went on to earn an MA in geography at Chico State University and spent the next thirteen years teaching geography at a community college in Sacramento. Following the completion of her Ph.D. at UC Davis in 1986, she went on to become a geography professor at universities in California, Texas and, ultimately, Oregon.

In recognition of her extraordinary service and leadership in advancing geography education, Hardwick was honored in 2013 with the George J. Miller Award for Distinguished Service, the highest award given by the National Council for Geographic Education.

“It is hard to name any major development in geography education over the past few decades that does not in some way bear Susan’s imprint,” said her colleague Alec Murphy, professor of geography and Rippey Chair in Liberal Arts and Sciences. “She was a tireless and effective champion of the cause.”

Among her many accomplishments, Hardwick played a critical role in crafting the original and revised versions of the National Geography Standards and cohosted the hugely successful PBS/Annenberg series, “The Power of Place.” She also spearheaded the development of an online training program for teachers of AP Human Geography, and played a central role in bringing to fruition the “Road Map for the Large-Scale Improvement of K–12 Geography Education.”

Key to her success, said Murphy, was “her ability to convey her enthusiasm to those around her. Susan had a tremendous influence on a range of students and teachers throughout her career—encouraging them to take up and advance the cause.”

Her numerous other accolades included the Distinguished University Educator Award from the National Council for Geographic Education and the Outstanding Professor Award for the entire California State University System. She was twice awarded the UO Rippey Innovative Teaching Award.

Hardwick published several scholarly books, two college textbooks, one middle school text and scores of articles and book chapters, and also authored a number of pedagogical works, including Geography for Educators: Standards, Themes, and Concepts, a text that has been used by several thousand teachers-in-training over the course of the past two decades.

Her professional service contributions were legion, said Murphy. Most notably, she served the National Council for Geographic Education as president and vice president of research and external relations. At different points during her career she sat on the national councils of both the Association of American Geographers and the American Geographical Society—taking the lead on many initiatives for those organizations. She was also an active member of the editorial board of the Journal of Geography for more than a decade, and she was a great contributor to other professional organizations in the U.S. with a geographic remit, including the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers and the National Geographic Society.

She also made significant contributions to the literature in cultural-historical geography, with a particular emphasis on the evolving ethnic geography of cities in the United States and Canada.  She is widely known for books on Russian refugees in North America (University of Chicago Press, 1993) and the role of immigrants in the making of Galveston Texas (Johns Hopkins University Press), as well as scores of articles on the ways in which racial and ethnic differences have shaped North American urban landscapes.  In recognition of her contributions, the Ethnic Geography Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers bestowed its Distinguished Scholar Award on Hardwick in 2001.

“Professor Hardwick’s good heart, her passion for her work and her intellect have impacted literally tens of thousands of students and teachers from kindergarten through graduate school through in-service training for experienced teachers, many of whom never knew that Susan was the force behind their experiences, ” said Marcus.  “We will miss her terribly, but take solace in knowing that her influence lives on in so many ways.”

A memorial service will be held Saturday, Nov 21, from 4 – 6:30 p.m. in Lillis Hall 182, on the UO campus. Following the service,  Condon Hall will be open from 6:30 – 8 p.m. for those who wish to visit the Department of Geography.


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