It is with a heavy heart with which I write today’s post. My mentor, as well as mentor and friend to many other geographers and educators, Dr. Kristi Alvarez, passed away on January 26th, 2012. Dr. A, as she was affectionately known, had more influence on my education than any other teacher I ever had. Not only was she was an expert in geography, geography education, GIS education, and spatial literacy, she was a great friend and mentor to countless people.
Her enthusiasm for geography, GIS, and education was contagious. She literally opened up the world to her students. During her time at Keene State she was well respected by her students as well as by faculty and staff. No, scratch that, her students loved her. Her classes were always popular with both geography and non-geography majors and, as an award winning advisor to the Keene State geography club, she helped develop a tight-knit community of students who shared her passion for geography. She was proud of her students and all of their accomplishments. I think it is safe to say that we were all proud of her too.
I was fortunate to have several classes with Dr. A at Keene State, where she was also my teacher education advisor. Late in the fall semester of my senior year I told her I didn’t want to student teach so that I could focus on becoming a geographer. She sat me down in her office and we talked about this major decision well into the night. I remember that she didn’t try to sway my opinion one way or the other. She wanted me to do what was best and she was going to support my decision either way. Once it was clear that I wasn’t going to student teach, she made sure my grad school applications got in the mail. Six years later I completed my Ph.D. in geography and I credit her for helping me find out who I wanted to become. To this day I have a picture of her and I from my graduation on a bookshelf in my office. Without her guidance and wisdom I don’t know if I’d be where I am today.
We stayed in touch after I graduated, often going out to lunch or dinner at conferences. I last saw Dr. A at the 2011 Esri User Conference. We went out to dinner and we talked about life and geography. She was excited about her work at the University of Redlands and all of the projects she was working on. We talked about project ideas and future plans. As always she asked about my wife and invited us to come out and stay with her and her husband if we were to make it out to the west coast. It was a good visit and now that I look back I’m glad it happened.
I was fortunate to have been her student and her friend. Thank you, Dr. A. We will all miss you.
For more info:
National Council of Geographic Education – Remembering Kristi Alvarez
Keene State College Newsline – In Memoriam: Professor Kristi Alvarez