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Lehigh Carbon Community College
Gary Langham (right), Executive Director of the American Association of Geographers (AAG),
presents the certificate recognizing Jerry Dobson (left) (RU-1965) as an AAG Fellow at the association’s annual meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii.

By Suzy Alstrin

The American Association of Geographers (AAG) recognized Reinhardt graduate and former trustee as a pioneer of Geographic Information Science (GISc), Dr. Jerry Dobson (RU-1965). He received the distinguished lifetime honor of being named an AAG Fellow for his outstanding contributions to the field.

During the award ceremony in April, Dr. Dobson was lauded as having “a rare combination of experience in government, academia, and the private sector. His innovative and diverse scholarship and commitment to helping people worldwide through research and action are exemplary.” These sentiments echoed those spoken several weeks earlier at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville where Dobson was also recognized for his geographic work with a lifetime achievement award.

In addition, Dobson serves as president emeritus of the American Geographical Society (AGS) and professor emeritus of the University of Kansas. Dr. Dobson notes, “The best measure of any award is who else has willingly received it.” Naming just a few, he holds the Cullum Geographical Medal in common with Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, and the Anderson Medal of Honor with the ‘father’ of the Geographic Information System, Roger Tomlinson.

Dr. Dobson reflects, “Fundamentally I believe that just reciting how many articles you’ve written and what offices you have held is not the best valid measure of a career. The valid measure is what you have done, what you have discovered, whether you have influenced policy, and whether you influenced or helped institutions. I emphasize those.”

Dr. Dobson’s leadership led to world standards for estimating populations at risk during disasters and how landmines and minefields are represented on maps. He led the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Coastal Change Analysis Program’s (C-CAP) effort to map change in uplands and wetlands and obtained funding to establish the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis. By mapping ocean floors and studying sea level changes dating back to the Ice Age, he discovered a potential human migration pathway via previously unknown islands between Asia and North America. These represent just a few of his many contributions to the field and expanding the depth of knowledge about humans and their relationship to their environments.

Despite all that Dr. Dobson experienced since college, he hasn’t forgotten earning Summa Cum Laude honors from Reinhardt, where he obtained his first of four degrees. He touts, “I was thrilled with the teaching I got at Reinhardt, especially in chemistry.” He served on the Board of Trustees from 2016 to 2022 and occasionally visits the campus with his twin brother and current Trustee Jeff Dobson (RU-1965).

Nicholas Nagle (left), Chair of the Department of Geography, University of Tennessee, presents
the department’s distinguished alumnus award for Lifetime Achievement to Jerry Dobson (center).