Snapshot of the Department's History
For further in-depth history of the department, please read the attached PDF document below.
The Department of Geography at Texas State University-San Marcos has become a nationally recognized center for undergraduate and graduate teaching. Rated one of the best undergraduate programs in the nation by The Journal of Geography, the Association of American Geographers, and a National Program Effectiveness Survey, our program continues to produce top quality geography professionals and maintain a top tier internationally recognized faculty, staff, and student body.
In 1899, the Texas Legislature issued a charter to establish the Southwest Texas State Normal School on 11 acres of land located between Austin and San Antonio, Texas. In 1903, the school opened an enrollment of 303 students and 17 faculty members. Students enrolling in the normal school were required to take a geography course. The course was about geographic pedagogy, in which prospective teachers were instructed how to teach geography in public schools. After World War I more systematic courses in physical and regional geography were offered.
Moving into the 1950s and 1960s the department continued to expand as the institution reorganized its academic structure. The School (now College) of Liberal Arts was formed as a free-standing academic department during this period. In 1965, the Department of Geography and Planning was established.
Allen Hellman (1965-1977)
Hellman became the first chair of the Department of Geography and Planning. He was the first faculty member to hold a doctoral degree and used his expertise to implement his three-pronged approach to geography instruction at Texas State University-San Marcos (then Southwest Texas State University). This included environmental studies, cartography and photogrammetry, and urban and regional planning.
Richard Boehm (1977-1994)
Boehm became the department's second chair following six successful years teaching at his alma mater, the University of Missouri. He helped propel the geography program at Texas State through a tough recession during the 1970's by bringing his knowledge and expertise in geographic education to the department. This would help triple the department's faculty members from 5 to 15 during the next 15 years.
Boehm also is the university's first endowed chair holding the Jesse H. Jones Distinguished Chair in Geographic Education. He also serves as director of the Gilbert M. Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education and co-coordinator of the Texas Alliance for Geographic Education. Boehm continues to teach advanced courses in geographic education in the department.
Lawrence Estaville (1994-2004)
During the Estaville years, he led the department through a remarkable period of advancement and growth. His tireless leadership enhanced the department's reputation as a major powerhouse in the field and helped build stronger linkages on both the national and international stages.
In July 1996, the department added two doctoral programs in environmental geography and geographic education under Estaville's watch. In fact, these were the first doctoral programs added in the campus's history, making Texas State a more competitive institution. Estaville continues to teach courses in cultural geography and enhancing diversity.
Cynthia Opheim (2004-2005)
Opheim served as interim chair of the department during the national search for a permanent chair. Her background in political science brought an added flavor to the department that not only maintained but also furthered the department's competitive edge.
Philip Suckling (2005-present)
Dr. Suckling currently serves as chair of the department, coming from the University of Northern Iowa where he was the head of the Department of Geography for 14 years. The faculty there grew during his tenure by 25 percent and geography course enrollments tripled. His interests involve climatology and natural hazards. The department is proud to have Dr. Suckling on board and looks forward to growing to new heights under his leadership.
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