Mike Goodchild Pays Tribute to Professor and Researcher Emeritus Don Janelle


Don Janelle retired from UCSB and his position as Researcher/Program Director for the Center for Spatial Studies on February 28, 2014, and a reception was held in his honor on the afternoon of the 26th. The following letter of tribute by Professor Emeritus Mike Goodchild was read out at the event:

“It’s hard to believe that I’ve known Don Janelle for almost 45 years—we arrived at the department of geography at the University of Western Ontario (now Western University) within a few months of each other in 1969/70 as young assistant professors. When I left London, Ontario for UC Santa Barbara in 1988, Don and I were still actively writing papers together, but Don was soon consumed by other activities, including chairing the Western department. But in 1999, NSF funded UCSB’s proposal for the Center for Spatially Integrated Social Science (CSISS), and I frantically began searching for a suitable post-doc to run its day-to-day operations. Out of the blue I heard from Don Janelle—could he apply for the position? What a brilliant idea, to come to the job with a career of experience as an academic geographer, a world-wide network of friends and colleagues, and solid administrative credentials. Bringing Don to UCSB was one of the most rewarding events of my career.

CSISS funding lasted for five years, and then morphed into the Center for Spatial Studies, which Don currently calls home. His roles in these centers truly demonstrated Don’s outstanding qualities. He is a meticulous organizer, pinning down the kinds of detail that most of us happily ignore but that leave meeting participants singing a center’s praises. He is unfailingly polite and friendly, qualities to be treasured in a center program director. He is ecumenical, prepared to reach out enthusiastically to any discipline where he sees the potential to spread the word about spatial thinking; and yet incredibly loyal to geography.

Don’s core interests and contributions are well known: transportation geography, human spatial behavior, time and space, and spatial demography. Less well-known, perhaps, are his interests in the discipline itself and in chronicling the work of its leaders. He spent many years compiling and archiving the work of William Warntz, another colleague who moved to UWO from Harvard in 1971 and was an early leader of the quantitative revolution in geography; and he has collaborated with Wes Dow on his Geographers on Film project. In 1987, Don and I published an analysis of the intellectual structure of the discipline, based on membership in the Specialty Groups of the Association of American Geographers.

Don is always willing to blur the distinctions between social, physical, and academic activities. Hiking, canoeing, or caving with colleagues are part and parcel of Don’s approach to academia, and early-morning hikes are now an established feature of center specialist meetings and workshops.

This is not Don’s first retirement, and it may not be his last. In his eighth decade, he is as energetic as ever, both intellectually and physically. I have cherished the years I have spent working with Don, and I look forward to many more of the same.”

Mike’s intimation about this not being Don’s last retirement is well-founded. In a letter to Don, Chancellor Henry Yang states: “In appreciation of your long-standing service to UC Santa Barbara, I am pleased to award you the title of Researcher Emeritus. This distinction, which is effective March 1, 2014, reflects our admiration and gratitude for the many years you have devoted to UCSB, its students, and the quality of campus life.”

The title of Researcher Emeritus is relatively rare and is reserved for outstanding research contributions, and Don Janelle certainly qualifies. Ironically, Don has never been a UCSB Geography “faculty” member. However, he was on the faculty of the U.S. Air Force Academy for four years and spent 30 years on the faculty of the University of Western Ontario, where he chaired the Department of Geography for five years, served as Assistant Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, and is a Professor Emeritus. For more about Don Janelle, see the December 7, 2010 article, “Dapper Don Janelle, Professor Emeritus.”

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Professor AND Researcher Emeritus Donald G. Janelle

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Don on the Santa Barbara Blue Canyon Trail which follows Escondido Creek through a narrow canyon past weathered sandstone outcroppings and blue-green serpentine rock. The lush canyon has stands of oak, sycamore, and alder trees

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Don in the Camden Hills State Park in Maine

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Don on a hike (led by Fiona Goodchild) on the Chorro Grande trail in Ventura County in February 2000