Department of Landscape Architecture
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Few messages have greater meaning to me than this one, for it was John Borchertómore than any personówho shaped and nurtured my academic career. Indeed, it was because of John that I had one of those "eureka" moments in lifeósomething that doesnít happen very often to any of us. It was the mid-1960s, and I had recently completed my BA degree in another University of Minnesota department. When scanning the University timetable I noticed a course called "American Metropolitan Evolution," a title that I found especially intriguing. After signing up as a special student, I entered the classroom not really knowing what to expect. Seventy-five minutes later I realized that for my career I wanted to do something similar to what John Borchert did.
At the time I had no idea how one became an academic, or if the Department of Geography would even consider me as a student; however, after enrolling in Johnís "Geography of Minnesota" course six months later I got to know him on one of our field trips. He encouraged me to consider the graduate program, and in two years I had earned a Masterís degree, with John serving as my advisor. Three years later I began to work on a Ph.D. work with John, and in 1972 I embarked on a career as a university professor that has been richly rewarding and interesting.
I will be forever grateful to John for taking the time to befriend me, and to support me in so many ways over the span of the subsequent thirty-five years. In fact, in late 2000 I sent John an article that I had recently written about an agricultural colony in Alaskaís Matanuska Valley that was settled by Midwesterners during the 1930s. As always, John made some very complementary remarks, and shared some of hisinteresting experiences in Alaska when he had been recruited by Northwest Airlines to work in the companyís Anchorage office.
John Borchert was truly an innovative scholar and a great teacher. In addition, few other academics have influenced their university, state, and nation in so many ways. When we add his wonderful personal qualities to all of the accomplishments, those of us who were his students realize how fortunate we were to have him as our mentor and friend. Johnís passing is a tremendous loss to all of us, but his legacy will continue well into the new millenium. My condolences and best wishes to the entire Borchert family.
Arnold R. Alanen
During the year we spent in Minneapolis, in 1970, John was a friendly, supportive colleague, always willing to help and inform. We particularlycherish memories from field trips with John and his students - he really was an inspiring man "in the field", knowledgeable. full of curiosity, always asking questions. - During that year, and at several later occasions, Jane and John showed us many kindnesses and let us enjoy their hospitality in their home in Scandia. We remember those times with gratitude and fondness, as well as the time when we had the opportunity to reciprocate in a small way when Jane and John visited Uppsala. A trip through familiar areas with John turned out to be a real eye-opener!
We were sad to get the news about John's death, but will remember him with great fondness. We feel keenly for Jane and the rest of the Borchert family in their sorrow.
Maj and Hans Aldskogius
My condolences on the passing of your father John. While we never met face to face I did take a correspondence course from him on Minnesota/Local geography 10 yrs. ago. We communicated many times through the mail and via telephone.
Iíve taught school in Pequot Lakes for 31 yrs. and his course got me to looking at the history of our city. To make a long story short the kids and I put together a 150 page book on the history of town and collected 100ís of old photographs and put together picture displays and a 36 page photo newspaper. That in turn led to the peolple in town creating our own local historic society affiliate with Crow Wing County. I believe I sent a copy of the book and paper to John as a thank you for all his advise and direction when putting this together. He helped make a difference here.
(University of Minnesota Geography Ė M.A. 1975; Ph.D. 1978)
Geography and Regional Science Program
National Science Foundation
SOME PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS OF JOHN R. BORCHERT
It's pure coincidence that my son's initials are the same as John Borchert's. The desire to continue my family's tradition of flip-flopping the name John between first and middle names of oldest sons produced the J, my wife's family history contributed the R., and there are a lot of good German surnames starting with B in addition to Borchert and Baerwald. But had I been looking to name my son after someone outside of my family, the initials would have been the same, because John Borchert is the person after whom I would have named him.
Very few people have touched me as has John Borchert, and fewer still have had such a profound impact on me both professionally and personally. I could extol John's qualities as a scholar, a teacher, and a mentor at great length. I expect that in the next few years, memorial statements highlighting his many accomplishments will be published in geography journals and other outlets. I will leave it to others to chronicle his many professional accomplishments. I will note, however, that on occasions when people asked me who was my advisor at Minnesota and I answered, "John Borchert," the smiles and nods that greeted that response invariably told me that their estimation of me had gone up a bit because of that answer. If only all people could enjoy such "guilt by association."
I had interests in geography, cities, and circulation systems prior meeting John. Through five years of graduate study and more than two decades afterward, however, he continually challenged and advised me in ways that directly contributed to my growth and success. Rather than focus on John Borchert the geographer, I would like to share some recollections of John Borchert the person. As the following comments will demonstrate, one could never completely separate John and geography, but focusing solely on his professional accomplishments misses much of what made him so very, very special.
Urban Excursions on Blegen Classrooms
My first extended contact with John Borchert was in 1973-74, my second year at Minnesota. (As I remember, he was not teaching much if at all the year before while he focused his efforts on the still-young Center for Urban and Regional Affairs.) American Metropolitan Evolution was a two-quarter upper-division/grad course that examined changing U.S. urban patterns at two scales. The first quarter focused on the evolution of the network of cities. To the uninitiated, one might wonder how John could have spun a single Geographical Review article into a full-quarter course, but the course never dragged. John required us to memorize the rank order (1st through 5th rank) for each of five critical censuses of more than 200 U.S. metropolitan areas, but it didn't take long to realize that this drill was a critical step in our developing the core knowledge base necessary to join John on a two-century traverse through our nation's urban evolution. John's graceful lectures were only part of the mix, as we marked up our own Raisz diagrams with different colored dots for the cities and different kinds of lines link them into a network, and we viewed many slides from John's rich collection to better visualize the places we were exploring together.
The first quarter was fascinating in its own right, but for me and others, it merely set the stage for the second quarter, where we zoomed in to examine the evolving urban structure within a diverse set of major U.S. metropolises. Slides and readings again complemented John's presentation, but for many of us, the highlights of this quarter were the days when John would walk into our Blegen Hall classroom with a cardboard tube filled with topographic maps. Soon after the class began, desks had been shoved back to the walls, the quads had been laid out on the floor in the middle, and we all had joined John in kicking off our shoes so we could stroll in stocking-feet on field trips across the maps. Through a skillful mix of story telling and map-oriented questioning, John led us through the historical evolution of these cities. By the end of the class, we not only knew what went on in different parts of the metropolis, but when different areas had been developed and how changing job locations and transport networks had transformed them. During my later travels, I repeatedly recalled some of John's comments about the development of cities when I visited those places, adding much greater depth to my understanding than I otherwise would have had.
The shoeless field trip is an approach I later used when teaching outreach programs at the Science Museum of Minnesota. More recently, I have used it when counseling Boy Scouts working on the Citizenship in the Community merit badge, because the first two requirements for that badge call for Scouts to learn about the historical development and current structure of their communities. When I watch young boys scramble across the maps, tracing lines and searching out places as I first did under John's tutelage, I wonder if any of them will later find themselves in jobs for which geography is important. If they do so, we will see yet another example of John Borchert's influence extending to yet another generation.
The Coffee Hour Introduction
I was an active member of the Coffee Hour committee during my first years as a grad student, stepping back during my later years to let others enjoy that experience. In late 1975 or early 1976, however, a committee member asked me if I would be willing to introduce John Borchert as the speaker at an upcoming coffee hour.
Wanting to start the session with a bit of humor, I began my introduction my noting that I was honored to be asked to introduce John because he was my advisor and because the parallels in our lives had been a great source of inspiration to me. Not only were we both Hoosiers by birth and graduates of small Indiana liberal arts colleges, but we also had found our callings in geography and gravitated into the study of contemporary cities and settlement systems. Seeking the cheap laugh, I added that I was grateful that John had preceded me, because I had learned from him that rather than first studying climatology, you could move directly into the "good stuff" of human geography. I glanced at Dick Skaggs as I said this, and he was chuckling, so I thought I was home free.
But after I concluded the introduction, John stood up and said that he did want to note one crucial difference between us. Whereas John had gone to DePauw, a fine school that offered a real liberal education, I had gone to Valparaiso, a Lutheran university, and knowing how rigid and conservatives Lutherans can be, John figured I never would have been able to make the switch he had made. Everyone had a good laugh at that excellent comeback, and I acknowledged that John had upheld the honor of physical geographers and advisors quite skillfully without any harsh feelings on anyone's part.
The Infamous Prelim Question
A few months later, when I received my written preliminary exam questions, I wondered if John was paying me back once again for my glib impertinence during the coffee hour introduction. I had shown up at 9:00 AM on the appointed Monday morning. I found John's office empty, so I headed into the department office to see if he had called in to announce he was running a bit late. When I arrived at the counter in 414, Margaret Rasmussen told me that John was on the phone with another secretary, having decided to phone in my questions and allow me to use his office as a quiet place to write them. As the secretary finished jotting down John's words, she turned to Margaret and asked, "Did he remember who was going to be answering these questions?" Margaret glanced at the sheet, looked up at me with a mildly fiendish grin, and said, "Sure he did." Margaret then quickly whisked me into John's office, handed me the sheet, and wished me well.
The sheet had two questions. The first asked me to speculate on what form a new epoch of American metropolitan evolution might take, and what urban areas were likely to be winners and losers in this new epoch. This was a question along the lines of what I expected, and I felt comfortable in addressing it at length.
The second question was quite different. I may not get every single word exactly correct, but a quarter century later, it still is emblazoned in my memory: "What answer would you give to a student in an introductory geography class who asked you why the point of maximum precipitation in the eastern United States is in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina and why precipitation totals had biannual maxima in June-July and December-January?" Not only had I failed to study any climatology for the prelims, I had never taken a formal meteorology or climatology course in my life. It took a few minutes for my heart rate to calm down and for my mental maps to clear up enough that I could start figuring out how to drop terms like the Great Smoky Mountains, orographic precipitation, trade winds, and prevailing westerlies into what I hoped would be a passable answer. The entire time I was answering this question, I kept telling myself that John surely didn't expect as clear, coherent, or complete an answer to this question as he did for the first question.
When I emerged from John's office at about noon and gave my answers to Margaret, I learned that "Baerwald's prelim question" was THE topic of conversation among every other grad student in the building that day, and that students effectively had grouped themselves into three camps. One camp consisted of folks like me who figured that if you were trying to demonstrate yourself worthy of a Ph.D. in geography, you ought to be able to formulate at least a decent strategy for addressing any reasonable geographic question, even if you would need additional resources to come up with a factually correct answer. A second camp was shocked and appalled that John Borchert would ask such an inappropriate and irrelevant (at least for me) question, and they quickly became very irritated with me when they learned I had legitimized the question by trying to answer it rather than ignoring it. A third group consisted of a few students who had "deer-in-the-headlights" looks as they scrambled to add yet more things to worry about as they prepped for their prelims and in some cases rescheduled their exams for a number of months later so they could study up for "off the wall" questions like this.
When I finally saw John Borchert a few days later, I asked him why he had asked me the second question. He laughed, said that it based on an observation that Thomas Jefferson had included in his Notes on the State of Virginia, and added that he thought it might be interesting to see how one Thomas dealt with a question raised by another. (He added that I had done a good job for someone who had no formal atmospheric science training, with the absence of any reference to jet streams being the only glaring deficiency in my response.) John was surprised when I told him about the varied reactions of my fellow graduate students, however, and as best I remember, his brief comments on their reactions went along the lines of "they don't realize that we ask these question to see how you think, not to gauge what you know."
The Guiding Spirit
John Borchert was the person who led me to contact the Science Museum of Minnesota for possible employment as I was finishing my dissertation, and he watched the establishment of geography at that institution with great interest. Its old location was across the street from the building where the Minnesota State Planning Agency was located, so the Science Museum was an excellent place to stay in touch with many of U of Minnesota geography and planning alums who had found employment in the state, regional, or local governments. They often were of great help as we sought to develop a major Minnesota exhibit, and knowing of my ongoing research interests in metropolitan growth and transportation, they sometimes invited me to meetings on topics of interest.
Some time in the early 1980s, a group of staffers from a range of state and regional agencies held a series of meetings to explore the potential for developing a common framework for gathering consistent data from building permits issued by local jurisdictions throughout the state. At one point during a meeting, I remember tensions running high as different people pushed hard on their own special topics of interest and emphasis, often by demeaning the suggestions of others. At a particularly difficult point, one of the veterans present got everyone's attention and asked how many people in the room had studied under or worked with John Borchert? Of about 20 people in the room, at least 16 hands went up. The veteran staffer commented that he thought that was one thing nearly all of us had in common, and he asked what we thought John Borchert would think about the petty squabbling in which we were engaged. "What would John Borchert be suggesting if he were with us right now?" the veteran concluded, and the meeting quickly moved into a new, more productive phase as participants focused on identifying points of common interest and mutual benefit
The early 1980s were too conservative a period for imposition of anything like a common building permit format, even in a state like Minnesota. I still remember that meeting, however, because of the way that the mere mention of John Borchert's name demonstrated both the breadth of the network of people who had worked with him and the way that his own amiable, constructive style so readily served as a model for others.
The Joyful Recovery
I'm going to guess that it was in 1996 or 1997 when John and Jane had come to the Washington area so that he could do archival work on the railway post offices that had first captured his interest as a youth. A few other Minnesota grads, and I had a chance to see them during their visit, and both John and Jane looked well. I therefore was surprised to learn a few days later that John had felt some chest pains as they were departing the Washington area and had driven himself to a hospital, where he was diagnosed as having suffered a mild heart attack. (If my recollection of the fact is off, please note that I turned 50 last year, and attribute any errors to "senior moments" I'm now entitled to invoke periodically as needed.)
I visited John while he was still hospitalized, but my most vivid memories were a follow-up visit while John was still recovering in a rest home northeast of Washington. Jim Fitzsimmons and I drove up to see John and Jane, and for more than an hour we engaged in constant discussion. There was speculation as to whether John used his knowledge of American metropolises as a guide while driving to the hospital (although he maintained he merely kept following the blue H signs along the roads), and there was some discussion of his recovery (which was far too slow for his liking, because he wanted to get on with his research).
But the bulk of the time was spent with John asking us questions. He probed Jim about his work at the Census Bureau, seeking new insights into his work as the key staffer to the OMB committee that defines and delimits metropolitan areas. He inquired about my work at NSF, but he took special interest in my experiences as a co-author of the Prentice Hall World Geography secondary school textbook. He enjoyed hearing about the "Texas schoolbook adoption wars," and he was delighted with my comment that my book and other contemporary texts were symptomatic of fundamental changes in geographic education, because we were emphasizing concepts, skills, and ideas rather than the facts that had been the mainstay of earlier texts.
As our meeting with John was nearing an end, he commented that he was especially interested in learning about our experiences because he considered his legacy not to be his own work, but rather the work of the students whom he had known. When we tried to emphasize the immensely important role he had played in our development, he deflected our comments with the humility that we all associate with him. He said that we should take credit for our own accomplishments, but he was pleased to have helped in some small ways to enable us attain our potential. As we left John that day, I remember that Jim and I talked with amazement and deep honor that John Borchert was taking pride in our accomplishments. I think we concluded that it showed that John still saw himself first and foremost as a teacher, and as a teacher, his record ultimately rested in the records of his students.
When I learned about John's death and about plans for the conduct of a memorial service on April 28, I quickly looked to book plane reservations to attend the service. Just before I was ready to authorize purchase of the tickets, however, I decided not to trust my fuzzy memory and look at my calendar. The Palm Pilot reminded me that the AAG was hosting a special meeting to explore ways to better integrate the interests of geographers in academia, government, and the private sector at the end of this week. Not only had I agreed to participate, but I had worked with Doug Richardson, the meeting organizer, to refine the agenda and participant list in an effort to maximize the likelihood that useful new ideas would come forward.
In deciding whether to skip the meeting so I could participate in the memorial service, it dawned on me that this was the kind of meeting that John Borchert would have been actively involved in were he still able to do so, because so much of John's work had engaged geographers from all three sectors. I therefore concluded that the AAG meeting was one that was very much in the spirit of John Borchert, and an appropriate way for me to honor him would be to remain in the Washington area and contribute to the meeting. So while I will have John's spirit with me at the meeting in Washington, my spirit will be with those in the Twin Cities who are honoring John on Saturday, and my best wishes and prayers go to his family and friends.
York University, Toronto
Kathleen and I came to Minnesota as newlyweds after a ten week honeymoon in Europe. The reception at the U. of M. was wonderful. One of the especially nice things was that each faculty member invited graduate students and spouses to their homes for dinner. We have never forgotten that evening, sitting in a geographerís dinning room with a wall papered in 1:100,000 U.S. topographical maps extending from Chicago to the Pacific. What a wonderful conversation piece for a meal. When I learned of your fatherís death, in his honour, I have hung a huge wall map of Deutschland - Mitteleuropa measuring 84 inches across and from the ceiling to the floor on our bedroom wall( Kathleen is a loving wife who understand idiosyncrasies of geographers) This bold relief map in the best of the German cartographic tradition is a beauty to behold.
The other memory of your dad that we treasure is when he use to hold picnics in the WINTER at one of the local Twin Cities parks. He found it hugely funny that only the Minnesotan and Canadian graduate students would attend. He walked among the attendees chuckling to himself that only those two groups turned up.
Frank and Kathleen Barrett
Former Science Advisor to the Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard
Jane, thanks for sharing this unique and exhilarating person with us over the past six decades. Without the vibrancy, foresight and cheerfulness that "Johnny" continually exuded, your world and ours is no longer the same.
While poverty stricken Rector Scholars, little did Bob Kesling and I realize that John, our designated Flunky for handling the corn popper each Saturday night, would eventually surpass all in attendance relative to matters academic and geographic. Certainly "Rock" Smith in his wildest dreams would have never guessed that he was grooming a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences in due course!
Now a great vacuum exists within his professional circle wherein farseeing ideas and concepts could become reality with minimal friction and a maximum of zest. Although hard to accomplish, Johnny made it look easy Ė which it is not. But we who have learned so much from him know that "his spirit marches on" although the physical presence no longer abides with us.
This is being sent too late for the service being held tomorrow, but I want to tell of my appreciation of your dad. I arrived in the graduate program at the U of M during his last year of teaching. I was impressed with his scholarship, but also with his genuine warmth to all of us. I have used his books in my teaching over the years and like the breadth with which they explain this region. The thing I liked most about him is how accessible he was. He always greeted you, was interested in your research, and continued to remember you as you moved away from the U of MN. I think there is a tendency for some in the profession who win as many awards, as your father did, to feel that those place you above others. This was not the case for John Borchert. He was one I hope to emulate. He showed me that love of geography can last a lifetime, but most importantly, love for all people, not just academics, should too.
Department of Geogaphy
Chicago State University
That I was deeply saddened to hear of Johnís death goes without saying, but it is especially ironic since I donít usually think of sadness and John Borchert in the same sentence. Whatever his other tremendous virtues were, he remains for me one of the nicest people that I have ever met. He seemed to draw great joy not only from his work but from basic human interaction. For example, John went out of his way to invite me to lunch when I came up to give a potentially nerve-wracking Coffee Hour a couple of years ago, and I couldnít help but be put at ease after that. He even managed to lecture with a smile on his face, except when his brow would wrinkle a bit and he would say of the topic, "Iím just trying to get a handle on this thing."
So thatís where my wife Mary Jane (whom I met on a project John supervised) and I are today: still trying to get a handle on this thing, and finding it very hard to do.
With my strongest wish for peace and comfort,
University of Wisconsin
I never met John before we were both out of the Army and at Wisconsin in 1946 or 7. However we were immediate friends, and soon discovered that our lives had been running in parallel- and continued to do so.
We often had long sessions together working on his dissertation on the prairie peninsula, after which he gave me his wind data and I expanded his study to all of North America for the most popular paper I ever wrote. Best of all we stayed friends ever since, in adjacent state universities. I have treasured the friendship, and figured I did something right in matching John's path, even if by chance.
Department of Geography
I was introduced as an undergraduate to John Borchert via his now classic articles on "American Metropolitan Evolution" (GR 1967) and "Americaís Changing Metropolitan Regions" (AAAG 1972). He was among the reasons I came to graduate school at the University of Minnesota. In the fall of 1977, I took Geography 5375, American Cities, from him. I fell under the spell of Johnís great historical geographical saga of the United States. The characters were cities, of course, caught up in shifting technological, economic, social, and political currents. John told a great story with colorful characters, but he also revealed the careful map and statistical work that made it convincing. We graduate students competed to see who could tell the Borchertesque tale the best against Erwin Raiszís backdrop.
Johnís ideas found their way into my own work, which has focused mostly on historic preservation. The legacies that people must weigh when they make preservation decisions are the result of the epochal changes John elucidated. Preservation in Charleston, S.C. has been so dominant in part because of the cityís remarkable plunge within the American urban hierarchy from sixth place in 1820 to 97th a century later. Its failure to keep up for so long bequeathed it an inheritance that was once again valuable in the auto-air-amenity epoch. Legacy of Minneapolis: Preservation Amid Change, which John co-authored with David Gebhard, Dave Lanegran, and Judith Martin, makes clear for that city, so important to John, the local deposits brought by national currents at various times. I wrote my dissertation in part on how the preservation movements of different metropolitan areas were influenced by the varying epochal detritus they received.
John was an Enlightenment Man. He believed in the power of good science and good public policy to improve the lives of ordinary people. The twinkle in his eye was there for both an interesting idea and a fellow human being. His last book review in the Annals was about Ann Markusenís Book, The Politics of Regions. Near the end of the review, he wrote, "Finally, I was troubled by the focus on regions as exclusively a framework for conflict. Regions also provide a framework for working cooperatively at common constructive [his emphasis] tasks, which also pursue justice and human welfare." This seems a nice summary of what John was about as a geographer, using regional thinking and mapping to make fairer and wiser public decisions. This is an ideal I value.
John, thanks for being part of my Minnesota education and for an uninterrupted stream of warm greetings in person and via Christmas card since. The energy situation in California (which requires me to pack a flashlight to class) reminds me of your prediction that the next energy epoch will bring dramatic changes to the American metropolitan system. I wish you were here to see them.
...the day I had with John driving around in the south metro area making photographs for the Minnesota 2000 project for the Minnesota Historical Society.
John was my advisor on my Minnesota 2000 project for the Minnesota Historical Society on the Minnesota river valley. We went out for a day and photographed everything from Valley Fair, Mystic lake Casino to the Gedney Pickle Factory and climbed around on top of the Elevator for C&H sugar. It was an amazing day. He had the adventurous sprit of an undergrad and a playful non arrogant knowlege of an expert. I'm still in awe of the stuff he knew. Yet, he was the one who wanted to tour the Pickle plant and the elevator, here we are a couple hundred feet in the air peering over the side.
Having worked at the "U" for thirteen years and having met scores of profs I can see why he was a regents prof., he had the right stuff. I had the privlege of working for and in some cases getting to know some regents profs. in IT and they are a rare breed indeed. If only the gang at the state capital(especially the big bald guy) could have had the privlege of getting to know someone like John, I'm sure there would be no questions about funding.
My only regret is that I couldn't steal him for a week so we could have gone on a cross country photo trip.
As happened most afernoons, John joined me to drive home to Golden Valley from the campus. "Youíll never believe what happened today." was his opening statement. "I was already started on a geography lecture in a classroom, third floor, Ford Hall, when a guy with all kinds of equipment came noisily through the door. Ignoring me completely, he started to set up an electrically driven impact hammer and started to drive a hole through the concrete floor a few feet in front of my podium. The noise, of course, completely disrupted the class. So I said to him, ĎApparently the same administration has sent the two of us to complete a task at the same spot yet the two tasks cannot occur at the same time. (This objectivety is so completely John Borchert!) What do you think we should do about this?í So this guy stopped his hammering, took a long time to look me up and down, and finally said, ĎWell, how much do you make an hour?í" I think John dismissed the class, at this point, but the calm objectivity of it all was so typical.
Needless to say, it was a privilege to drive to and from work with John for so many years.
Dr. John Borchert has had a profound effect on Minnesota and its natural and recreational resources for over 50 years. As a University of Minnesota Geography professor, he initiated a uniquely interdisciplinary research and planning perspective to understanding Minnesota in post World War II America. John Borchert was a key figure in the formative years of the Twin Cities Metropolitan Planning Commission (predecessor of the Metropolitan Council) as well as the Congressionally-mandated Interstate Highway, National Outdoor Recreation Resources, and local planning assistance programs.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has also benefitted greatly from our association with Dr. Borchert over the years -- from his direct counsel on numerous occasions to his many students who have become DNR employees. Dr. Borchertís interdisciplinary research and planning interests ranged from the local-regional scale, as exemplified by his passionate involvement in protecting the St. Croix River, to statewide land use and Upper Midwest Region issues. Through historical trends analysis and ample use of maps and related graphics, Borchertís own work and those he trained for public sector work have served the state exceedingly well. Some of Dr. Borchertís pioneering work in geographic information systems include lakeshore, land use, land ownership, and many other natural resource-related data collection and application efforts. The Minnesota DNRís ability to successfully deal with a wide variety of complex natural resource issues and problems is in large measure a result of John Borchertís legacies of interdisciplinary planning, geographic information systems, community building, and public service.
The Department of Natural Resources joins in the celebration of Dr. John Borchertís life and his outstanding contributions to the State of Minnesota.
Favorite professor recalled
I noticed the passing of a person who, to me, was one of the finest teachers I have ever seen. His name was John R. Borchert, and I took a geography class from him many years ago. He was teaching at the then-new Ford Hall at the University of Minnesota.
He was so full of enthusiasm and excitement about his subject and would come almost bursting into the classroom and there was a sort of electricity that just permeated. This sense of excitement continued throughout the entire period. I donít recall him ever resorting to jokes or other attention-gettersóhe never needed them. The thing he did do was to keep his students in a sort of suspense as he would relate some discoveries he had made.
I consider this man the finest teacher I ever experienced. It would seem well for folks involved in education to research this manís life and teaching methods to glean the successful techniques that he employed. I suspect, however, that a great deal of his charisma was due simply to his love and interest in his subject and his love of teaching.
One wonders if love or subject matter should play into teacher salary negotiations.
It would be interesting to learn why he chose northern Washington County as a place to live. I do not recall ever visiting with him at the end of class, but he was constantly being visited after class by many students and always showing politeness and consideration to the studentsóand always with a smile!
St. Paul Pioneer Press, April 21, 2001, Letters to the Editor.
University of Iowa
Professor of Geography
Director of Global Studies
Director of African Studies
Associate Director, UI Center for Human Rights
John Borchert was an uncommon man with a common touch. He had that rare ability to be at ease with everyone, from the humblest to the most exalted. As great as he was in the classroom, he was in his element on field trips. Two particular incidents merit mention.
In May of 1968 John took a bus load of students to Chicago on a three day field trip. I remember listening to a conversation with a contractor in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Students were wandering around, seeing the sights. John, with a couple of us grad students in tow, sauntered over to a fellow looking over some blue prints. In the gentlest Borchert manner, John engaged the contractor in conversation, eliciting from the fellow an incredible amount of information about what he was doing, the problems he had to overcome, the likelihood of turning a handsome profit, and many other gems of information that helped us understand what was really going on. John took on the role of a curious observer, never letting on that urban development was what he studied, probing in his gentle yet informative way.
Another glimpse into Johnís humanity came from an early morning walk he and I took in Aachen in June of 1981 when we were part of an AAG delegation to Germany. He had been a weatherman for the army air corps during World War II, and he talked of seeing a very different Aachen from the air when on what was really a rest and relaxation flight from Britain to the south of France just after the war ended. He discussed his job, which really amounted to figuring out where Allied bombers would be able to see well enough to discharge their ordnance. He talked about how painful yet necessary the whole operation was, how he lamented the loss of life, which side was involved, but also how he knew how necessary defeating the Nazis was.
John Borchert was a sensitive, brilliant, productive man. My life is enriched by knowing him. Minnesota is a better place because he lived and worked there.
Professor of Geography
Although I am a generation younger, I got to know your dad pretty well over the years. He was a great guy in every respect and I thoroughly enjoyed every conversation I ever had with him. Because he often took your mother along on trips to geography meetings, I also got to know her as well. My sincere condolences to you, your sister and brothers, and to your mother on your loss.
Your dad and I shared many interests in common and never lacked for something to talk about when we ran into one another. One interest we shared, especially, was in railroads, particularly railroads of the Upper Middle West. I have copies of two of the last articles your father published, both of them in "railroad fan" magazines, rather than professional geography journals, which dealt with the railway mail service. Professors aren't supposed to be "fans" of what they study, but John Borchert was not about to hide his interests in something as geographical as the flow of mails on the nation's railroads. His interest, of course, went back to his own father who was a railway mail clerk on the
I will cherish those two articles as especially vivid reminders of John and his interests. He meant a lot to me and I will miss him.
John C. Hudson
I was a student in Geography and Urban Studies at the U in 1971-73. , and John was my professor and advisor. He wrote the introduction for a large independent study report I did on Twin Cities transit. It lead to a career at Metro Transit, where I remain to this day, along with several of his other students.
We shared a common interest in the history of railroads. I have been active for many years in the Minnesota Transportation Museum, and John has been also been a member for some time. I believe John's last major project was mapping
the Railway Post Office system during its highest point, in the 1920s. He completed the basic research, and as usual, it was an important addition to the geographic literature of the United States. I was privileged to publish the first excerpt of that work, titled "The Heyday of the Railway Post Office in Minnesota" in the museum's magazine in 1997. John went on to publish a much larger section on the Pennsylvania Railroad's mail trains, where his father worked as a Railway Mail Service clerk.
John was the best teacher I ever had. He said that it was fine to know the theories of geography, but why not learn St. Louis, and Chicago, and Duluth while you were at it. That enthusiasm for all the real places was his special gift to us all.
Professor Emeritus, University of Minnesota, Communication
I want to express my gratefulness for the years shared with John (and Jane). Since I taught in the Universityís Department of Speech-Communication from 1959 until my retirement in 1993, there were many times when I had the occasion to learn of Johnís many impressive contributions to the life of the University. Special opportunities to get to know him more personally included such groups as the Vagabonds, the Faculty Dancing Club, the Faculty Square Dancing Club, and the Retirees Association. His solid scholarship, effective communicating, and his kind and pleasant demeanor were simply outstanding, all rolled into one person. His wide international outlook and interdisciplinary interests made him very special. His rich life has indded been a wonderful gift to so many.
Khin Khin joins me in expressing appreciation for Johnís fine qualities.
I was a geography student at the U of M in the mid 1980ís. I worked on a small project for John Borchert via Will Craig during that time and took his Minnesota and Metropolitan cities courses.
I was also fortunate to be one of a small band of students to go on one of the undergraduate student club outings where John led us on a tour through the Twin Cities one Saturday. We ended up at his home along the St. Croix where his wife Jane had lunch waiting for us.
What struck me most about John during that time was that his office door was always open and he was always willing to spend a few moments to talk to you. In all the interactions you always felt his generosity to share both his time and knowledge.
Beyond that he also was interested in listening to who you were. I was an older student and I distinctly remember him asking me about my background and interests. He told me at that time about various paths his children had taken. His comment was ĎIsnít it interesting that so many in your generation have chosen these varying paths?"
The story that I remember him telling was how he was in one city with an hour or so before his plane was to leave. He caught a cab and told the driver he wanted him to show John the city through his eyes, where he lived and what he did.
After the U of M, I went to SUNY at Buffalo. Upon hearing that I had come from the U of M, one of the other graduate students asked about John Borchert and said one of his most valued papers was Johnís classic article on physical geography. I was dumbstruck! In my eyes, John had been an urban and midwest geography. Later on, John served on one of the committees when the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis was established at Buffalo. I now work at LMIC where John is given credit for establishing the foundation for our department.
Thus, my admiration for John has grown over the years. I view him as a good model for someone who had been active in his interests his entire life and who had been able to grow with those interests over the years.
I know there are many who have had a much closer and long-term relationship with John, but because of his willingness to share and interact with us all, he has felt close and special to us all.
John S. Holl Professor of Geography, Macalester College
Coordinator of Minnesota Alliance for Geographic Education
Like all his students I was profoundly influenced by John Borchert. His love of geography, good humor and caring, sharing personality made him a professor we all admired and many of us emulated. Of course we were all intimidated as well. He seemed to able to remember and draw every map he ever saw. He also seemed to have visited every city in the country. I well remember his series of course titled American Cities. He would love to take USGS maps of the urban areas we were discussing spread them on the classroom floor and point out significant features with bamboo fishing pole.
It was my great privilege to collaborate with John , Judith Martin and others on the historic site survey of Minneapolis. It was delightful summer of field work conversations and writing. He was an encouraging team member and co-author. That summer was urban geography at its best.
We also worked together in a variety of efforts to improve geographic education in Minnesota and the United States. Many have written about Johnís significant contribution to the science and application of geography. I would like to comment on his interest in and impact on geographic education. John always had time to think about large issues and geographic education was one of the large topics that concerned him. Early in his career he wrote a series of books for use in elementary and middle schools. His encouragement lead to a series of successful National Science Foundation Summer Institutes held at Macalester College in the mid 1980s. These institutes were the foundation of the Minnesota Alliance for Geographic Education He was very supportive of all the programs of the Minnesota Alliance and even visited one of our early student geography fairs at the Science Museum. He also took time to create a video version of popular course on the geography of Minnesota so teachers would have access to his insight and material. We would regularly discuss efforts underway to improve geographic education in Minnesota. He was always ready with an encouraging word or an approving letter when we accomplished a goal. He was genuinely pleased when after a great deal of effort we secured a million dollar endowment for geographic education in Minnesota and was a guest at our celebratory banquet where he addressed the assembled politicians, bureaucrats and leadership of the National Geographic Society. But John was most interested in talking to the teachers in attendance. He valued their contributions and cherished their company.
When I became President of the National Council for Geographic Education John became one of my most regular correspondents. He took a keen interest in all I was doing and was ready with advice and encouragement as well as his special view on events and processes. Most recently we were able to discuss my efforts to develop the Advanced Placement Human Geography Course, an endeavor he supported with enthusiasm. It is because I must participate in a previously scheduled work-session of the AP test task force that I must be absent from the Memorial Celebration of Johnís life, but I will be with you in spirit.
We will all profoundly miss, John Borchert, but we must count ourselves among the fortunate because we knew him.
David A. Lanegran Ph.D
MEMORIES OF JOHN BORCHERT
John Borchert was both a good friend and the center of my becoming a geographer. I came to the University of Minnesota in 1953 to study architecture. By Spring Quarter I was wondering if a career in architecture was really right for me. I browsed through the course catalog to consider other alternatives. Geography classes jumped out at me. I had never heard of geography as an academic field and it seemed almost too good to be true. Here were classes on topics that had always fascinated. Climatoligy caught my eye. Similar to John I also had worked in Air Force weather stations during the Korean war.
To check out this possible new major, I went over to Ford Hall to find somebody to talk to. There was one office with the door open and someone who looked to me like a professor working at his desk. Fortunately for me, it was John Borchert. I had no appointment but he invited me to sit down and talked about geography. When I left I too was hooked.
John became my advisor through to my Ph.D. in 1962. I took all of his classes, went on wonderful field trips, and participated in several of his seminars. I also worked for him doing field work on his study of of the effect of the then new Interstate Highway System on land use. Later, I even taught his Geography of Minnesota class for him one year.
My wife Grace and I stayed with John and Jane in their home above the St. Croix river. On one of our trips to the Twin Cities we went to dinner and a Twins baseball game with them. They also stayed with us in Missoula and for once I got to lead a field trip. We all watched as a mule deer doe gave birth to her second fawn near the road. I think that could have been the last time I saw John. His departure leaves a big hole but lives on in rich memories.
Director Urban Studies Program
University of Minnesota
As I sat looking at John"s picture on the invitation to this memorial, I was struck by two things: First, I simply cannot believe that John is gone -- that he wonít just turn up looking to have lunch, or to talk about city and university concerns. Those encounters were always a highlight of my day. Second, I canít think of very many other people about whom I have absolutely NO bad memories.
Three settings, in three decades, capture for me Johnís essential qualities.
First, as a teacher in the 1970s. Like many, I first met John in his American Cities course -- my first formal exposure to geography. With no idea what to expect, I was delighted to be down on the floor looking at maps, as John shared new tools for thinking about and analyzing cities. No other 8:15 morning class ever attracted me, but I never missed this one, and would have gladly kept going another quarter or another year. Johnís sheer enjoyment of and fascination with cities and their people shone through.
Secondly, as a research colleague in the late 1970s and early 1980ís. John easily persuaded David Lanegran and I to work on the preservation survey of Minneapolis with him Ė and, it turned out, with David Gebhard from Berkeley (this pairing was the brainchild of Tom Martinson, then in the City Coordinatorís office). John hired Paula Pentel to work on Sanford maps and then he, Lanegran and I delighted in creating the most complicated density map of Minneapolis development ever seen. It was truly amusing to see Gebhard try to fathom what all those symbols meant Ė and then to see John indulging Gebhardís arguments about the significance of architectural intricacies, when he knew it was really the streets, sewers, and transit that mattered. Despite our different approaches, this was the most civilized research interaction imaginable. Due to Johnís involvement, it was one of the most enjoyable ever.
Finally, as a colleague in the years since he retired. Despite winter absences, John was often around, working on his projects, asking what others were doing, and offering support. An example: In 1997 I organized a Saturday meeting of authors in my book series Ė since this was a working session, I didnít advertise it. After lunch, John wandered in and asked if he could sit in. Of course, we were delighted to have his perspective on what we were trying to do. After 90 minutes, he left to meet Jane, but before going he told our group that this was the most stimulating urban discussion he heard in a very long time Ė to me, a very important endorsement for our team effort. Such generosity was underscored when he later gave many of his city and metro research reports to me for the Urban Studies students to use.
As my teacher, a colleague, a role model, and finally, a friend, John was truly one of the best human beings I ever encountered. He always saw people and things in the best light Ė who else goes to teach, to eat, or just walk around, and leaves their office door open? John transmitted his positive view of the world in his classes, in his writing, and in his overall demeanor, day after day, year after year, decade after decade. For many of us, the university, the Twin Cities community, and the world are hugely dimmed by Johnís death. But all of these settings would be much dimmer today had we not had his intelligence, curiosity, and spirit with us for so long.
Proud. John was always proud of the accomplishments of his many successful students and the thousands of other individuals with whom he interacted over the years. A really special trait of Johnís was the fact that he showed this "proudness" to each and every person when he met with them; that made the "receiver" of Johnís comments feel very good about themselves, in addition to feeling that John had been an important part of their lives.
Two instances from my personal situation illustrate this trait:
First, John was my Masters program advisor. Although he likely was disappointed that I never completed the final requirements to get the degree -- choosing to "get some real-world experience" first (from which I never returned to complete the program) -- in all our encounters, he never had anything but kind words to say about how proud he was of what I had been able to accomplish as Chief of the Geography Division at the U.S. Census Bureau for more than 15 years, and as Associate Director for Decennial Census at the time of the initial planning for the recently completed Census 2000. Of course, I knew that it was because of my association with John that I was able to accomplish so much.
Second, John became aware that my father, Wyman, was a railway mail clerk for most of his working adult life. This was a double fascination because of the connection it provided with Johnís own father. (Interestingly, in the obituary Garrison Keillor did about his father, John Keillor ["Time" magazine, March 12, 2001], he noted that his father, too, was a railway mail clerk. Those were some powerful genes working in those mail clerk fathers.) John made a special point to interview my father as he prepared his extensive article for the Winter 1999 issue of "The Keystone" (Pennsylvania Railroad) magazine about the history of the railway mail service in that part of the country. John showed my father how proud he was of my fatherís "contribution" to that article by sending a full copy of the issue to him. My father read the entire issue cover-to-cover the afternoon he received it.
All of us were proud to be associated with John. He gave us so much and we all miss him greatly.
Robert W. Marx
No person outside my family has had a greater impact on my life than John Borchert. I have enough memories to fill a book. Here are a few of them.
John prefaced every visit with a quick, welcoming smile and a question about how I was doing.
When John was my advisor, he was also very busy with a myriad of other commitments. One result of these commitments is that he was consummately late for our appointments. Other students would see me waiting by his door and ask why I didnít change advisors. My reply was "Itís worth the wait." And it was. When John eventually arrived, I received his undivided attention. His answers to my questions and his comments about my project were so insightful and clearly worded that my notes could be published. I can still hear him asking some of his standard questions: "Where is it? What does it look like when you map it? What do the numbers mean?" Visiting with him had an added bonus. He was able to convince me that he had profited from our meeting, and I always felt proud that I was able to help him better understand the issue we had discussed.
I am convinced that one of the keys to John Borchertís success was his naÔve, child-like curiosity. He had the ability to see the world as if he were seeing it for the first time. This talent may be an extension of the imagination that all geographers use when looking at the world with mental maps at multiple scales, but John had it to an extraordinary degree. One time when John had been mowing some grass at Cedarcliff he had seen a squirrel taking seeds from the birdfeeder. That evening John related how he had imagined what the squirrel was thinking from his view of the world, watching people put free seeds out and later approach with a lawnmower. This imagination allowed John to see the individual lives and struggles that are represented by maps of the human settlement system and, by extension, to have empathy with people of other times and places.
John was a superb teacher. During one seminar he was preparing to write his book, Americaís Northern Heartland. Typically, he would put a map on a table in the middle of the room and begin talking about it. Soon the map came alive. Johnís clear description and analysis drew us into another time and place. We could see early explorers and settlers making their way up rivers and building outposts that represented the frontier of the U.S. settlement system. Look, thereís James J. Hillís crew surveying for the High Line! They are taking soil samples to help insure that settlers from Europe will be eager to acquire the land and provide a reliable customer base. Years later and on a different map, we saw the Milwaukee Road crew pushing desperately through hardscrabble country that almost guaranteed few customers and difficult financial times for both the railroad and those who followed it to new frontier farms. We watched land auctions and frenetic construction efforts as new towns emerged behind the new rails. Entrepreneurs promoted their town as the best and advertised local farmland that was always rich and well-watered. The quality of the local resource base and the accessibility of each farm and town differed; a few prospered and grew while others stagnated or declined. Through Johnís eyes, knowledge, and imagination we watched geographical processes create the Upper Midwest of today.
Perhaps Johnís greatest teaching trait was to teach in such a way that many students were unaware that they had learned. This normally involved a series of clear, simple, logical steps and the use maps and geographical processes to reach a conclusion. At the conclusion, a common student reaction was "Of course, I already knew that." Upon reflection, however, it became apparent that though the facts, maps, and processes used to reach the conclusion were well known, John Borchert was the first person to actually think of the world in this new way that now appeared to be almost intuitively obvious.
Maps were, of course, central to Johnís life. He used maps to demonstrate their power and utility to answer scientific questions and to solve problems. He also used maps to show how geography contributes to the body of knowledge and how they can provide us with a context for our lives. For these reasons, geographers have a responsibility to use maps and other geography tools and ideas wisely and for the common good.
Johnís questions about the earth and how people use it provide a path for much future geographic research. His methods of approaching these questions provides a light for the path.
Every day my students and I benefit from John Borchertís articles, his insights, and his ways of thinking about the human settlement system. But perhaps most of all, we benefit from his example of living The Good Life.
THE OPEN DOOR
I will always remember the open door to Johnsí office at the end of the skyway to the classroom building. If he was in the door was always open and I knew I was always welcome to ask a question or get some advise. Of course sometimes you had to wait because he was on the phone for what seemed to an undergraduate endless phone calls. You also had to contend with other students, but if you out waited them you could get in.
ENTHUSIASM FOR LEARNING
My most memorable college course was American Cities. Johnsí enthusiasm for learning inspired most of the class. I was a senior and looked forward to each class. There was a group of us that banded together with the implied goal to beat the graduate students on tests. We were able to do this sometimes but expended a lot of effort in the process. His enthusiasm for learning never diminished. We compiled a new land use map two years ago, John was as excited by this new map as he was about the original in 1969, and I knew he would be. I will miss his appreciation and excitement about good geographic projects and work.
COMMITMENT TO MAKE THIS AREA A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE
The Lakeshore Study, the Land Use Map and the development of the Land Information System were all projects undertaken to promote change in state land use and settlement policies. Throughout all the projects there was a strong commitment to public service that was fostered by John and shared by everyone on these projects. In public testimony and in research reports this commitment was obvious and understood by public officials at leadership levels. By combining this commitment with high scholarship and good communication skills the results were believed and acted upon. They have significantly changed the settlement pattern of our state.
RISK TAKING AND TRUST
The Lakeshore Study and the Land Use Projects were research projects of large scale and high visibility. They employed dozens of students and had large budgets. They were administered by students with major responsibility delegated by John. This approach developed a generation of leaders that have been able to expand and carry forward most of these projects. It also made the projects fun to work on.
Department of Geography
I remember John Borchert in a number of ways over many years:
He was always welcoming to me and others. One could always stop in his office, which for years was next to the department office. Iím sure he requested that location so visits could be frequent.
I was lucky enough to ride back from a Winnipeg AAG meeting in the Borchert station wagon with a number of other grad. students. It was an amazing field trip! John insisted that we look at everything along the way and to pose questions about the landscape we passed. A number of times we stopped for mini field excursions on siteóthese sojourns occurred in agricultural settings, small towns, along highwaysóthere was always something geographical that John insisted we consider. No sitting back reading newspaprers on that trip!
Both my wife Darlene and I were amazed at the amount of knowledge John shared with us and a large busload of people about the Twin Cites on an all day field trip through the territory. Darlene still remarks about that experience.
Years ago I had the priviledge of working for Lukermann and Borchert as a research associate in their NDEA Institute for teachers held at the U. This was a richly rewarding experience for all involved.
Early in my geography career I became President of the Minnesota Council for Geographic Education for one year. John was the first to offer to help out in any way he could in this endeavor. Iím sure others too numerous to mention have a similar story about Johnís helpfulness.
When the memorial service was held for Hildegard Johnson at Macalester College John and I were asked to speak about that grand lady. I remember John saying that Hildegard was "always there" for teacher workshops, seminars devoted to geography, and programs to give the discipline more visibility. I recall thinking at the time that John was in a way descibing himself, for this characterizes him as well as Hildegard. John was an outstanding spokesman for geography.
I was honored to be a member of a program on Stillwater at the Minnesota Historical Society some years back. What a thrill to be a speaker along with John Borchert and John Fraser Hart.
I think the last time I saw John was a dinner at his home attended by Dick Skaggs and Cotton Mather. Cotton was in town for a brief visit following his retirement. It was wonderful experience and a supreme thrill to look out over the St.Croix valley from the Borchert balcony and to have John point out key elements on the horizon. Nobody did it better.
Finally, there is the Borchert smile; I cannot recall ever seeing him in a bad mood! He was always warm and engaging.
Public Waters GIS Coordinator
While I have a number of stories about your father, I think my best is this:
A few years ago I found myself, on extremely short notice, in Vancouver, B.C., during the summer. The first nice night (it rains a lot there) our host suggested we go to a minor league baseball game. He went out and got us "cheap" seat tickets. Since we were "from the States," we were free to move down into the better, more expensive seats. Well, we went. We sat down in our proper seats. We noticed about 10 rows of vacant (more expensive) seats right behind home plate. So, we moved down after the game had started. The three of us sat there for an inning or so, and an older gentleman wandered over and sat down next to us. We exchanged greetings and chatted a bit about the game. He said it was obvious we were "from the states," since no Canadian would ever sit in seats they didnít pay for. He identified himself as an ex-Californian. He wanted to know where we were from. I told him, "Minnesota." He told us that while he had been a U.S. diplomat, he had retired from international investment banking. He asked me what I did. I said, "I work with computers and computerized mapping. Some folks call it GIS." "I know what that is," he said. "So, where did you go to college and what degree did you get?" I said, "I went to Minnesota, and I majored in Geography." "You did?" he said. "Yes, I did," I replied. "How wonderful, he said, "So what is John Borchert doing these days?"
This gent had worked with your dad on some international issues back in the 1960ís. He hadnít kept in touch, but he always kept track of where your dad was.
College Roommate, DePauw University
John and I became acquainted and friends way back in the pre World War II days. He, Vin Lindgren and I settled in Room 300 in old Flossie Hall (long since torn down) back in 1938 and spent one interesting and busy year together. I donít think you could have found three more compatable fellows who also became steadfast lifelong friends. Unfortunately, John and Vin are both gone now- and I am left with only memories. But they are pleasant memories!
Other than at the reunions of our class of Ď41 at old D.P.U. we probably did not see enough of each other. John and Jane did visit us at our home here in Louisville a couple of times- and about a year ago my son Mark and I joined John and Jane for dinner and an evening of catching up on all that has kept us busy these past few years. I am so happy that we had this opportunity to be together again.
John and Ed Richter in the late 30's in front of Flossie Hall.
It was Johnís unbridled enthusiasm for urban geography that stimulated me to write the most comprehensive paper of my undergraduate program back in 1970. Since then, I have also been an urban planner, a high school geography instructor, and have mentored for the Scholars of Distinction in Applied Geography thanks in major part to John Borchertís influence.
The world will truly miss him, but we all need to be thankful for the tremendous contribution he made while he was with us. May his work continue to benefit others long after his passing.
I was a student of Johnís almost 30 years ago when I was an under graduate student in Geography. I took Johnís classes on American Cities as well as his class that traveled to Chicago. I have fond memories of his classes - his enthusiasm and curiosity about the places that we have made and live in. I remember speaking with him after class one day about whether there were any jobs or opportunities around the department that I might apply for as an under graduate student. He said he would check around and keep me in mind if anything was available. The very next day, I received a call from John Adams asking if I would like to work on the American Cities mapping project. It was really no surprise that I received that call, John Borchert was always so interested in his students and ready and willing to assist them with their academic pursuits.
I also have a more recent memory of John. I completed my undergraduate degree in 1975 and eventually earned my MS in Water Resources at the University of Wisconsin. I have been working in the environmental field in the West since 1981 and had not been in contact with John since I graduated. Two or three years ago, I received a manilla envelop in the mail from John with a note. He was in the process of clearing out his office at the Department and had come across one of my term papers from his class. For some reason that escapes me now, I had requested that he return the paper to me when he had finished reading it and assigned a grade to it. I had enclosed a dollar for postage. He was returning the paper to me after all these years (along with the dollar!) and apologizing for having been so tardy in honoring my simple request. Of course, I had long forgotten my request and so it was a total surprise to have receive this lovely note from John. But it was so like him to care enough to return it after all these years.
Taking his courses and catching his enthusiasm for looking at maps has had a deep influence on my own career. In the environmental field, I am looking at another expression of manís influence on the land - the nature and extent of hazardous waste contamination. One of the tools in this field is mapping of these environmental contaminants - an invaluable tool that I learned to appreciate from John.
University of the Aegean
Pardon my tardiness in sending this message, but overseas mail can be very slow. I am one of John Borchertís geography students, I am from Greece, and this is where I now live and work. I would like to extend to you and to your family my deepest condolences for his departure. I would like to add a couple of clumsy words for his Memorial Celebration.
John Borchertís work has not only touched and changed american geography, academia and students, according the memorial note in the Minnesota Geographer. It has extended around the world. Through me, his influence has played a significant role in shaping the discipline, as well as the profession, of geography in Greece. I have had the great opportunity in my life to become one of the six geographers who created the first department of geography in my country, at the University of the Aegean. I owe to John Borchert my basic geographical knowledge and way of thinking. I also owe to him a shining example of an individual, whose brilliant intellect, heart and spirit, highly interconnected, have provided enormous guidance in my life as a geographer and as a human being.
I feel deeply honored to have been his student.
Theano S. Terkenli
University of Wisconsin
Several years ago I gave a talk in downtown Minneapolis. I was happy and honored to see John in the audience. Surprised, too--but not too surprised because I knew John to be the Compleat Geographer, someone interested in all geographical perspectives, including my own outlandish ones. At a more personal
level, John and I used to have hamburgers at Annie's Parlor. In that intimate (to me, All-American) setting, John and I could unbutton and talk on all sorts of topics. After I left for Wisconsin, whenever and wherever I met John, we would both say, "Let's get together at Annie's Parlor again." But this was not to be. I gather that Annie's is no longer at Seven Corners. Places are mortal. But not the human spirit--not John's spirit, which will always be in his works and in our memory to inspire us.
I first met John Borchert in March 1956 when I came, as a young graduate student from Auckland, New Zealand, to undertake a Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota. Three weeks later I found myself making a journey by car, with Neil Salisbury, Ed Maranda and Donald Philipp, through the snow-covered lands of Wisconsin, Michigan and Southern Ontario to Montreal for the annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers. John joined us for the return journey through Ottawa, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, and Northern Michigan and Wisconsin to the Twin Cities. Three moments associated with John stay in my memory from that trip - the first a stop in a rural part of the Ottawa River Valley, where John and I as the only members of the group with any French language attempted to interview a surprised French Canadian farmer about the layout and boundaries of his "long-lot" farm. Our efforts were not helped by the fact that the farmer spoke strongly accented Quebecois French almost impossible for either of us to understand. The second moment was when we essayed to enter the United States at Sault Ste. Marie, - no problem for the 4 Americans, but the immigration officials were distinctly doubtful about this student from a country on the other side of the world, wanting to enter the United States on a Student Visa for the second time in a month. There was a long delay while they tried to figure out what to do, - so long that eventually John came back into the entrance hall from the American side to vouch for me, persuade them that my passport and visa were genuine and I was harmless, and they could issue the appropriate stamp to allow me to enter. The third moment was when we stopped for a meal in a small town in Northern Wisconsin. Speaking normally I asked for "toe-mah-toe soup". When the elderly ex-Chicagoan waiter returned with my "toe-may-toe soup", he asked where I came from. I donít think heíd had much geography in his school days, but he said "Well, fur a furriner yí sure speak the language mighty well"! I heard John tell this story several times with much delight.
During my subsequent 4 years at Minnesota, and for all the years since then, I came to regard John Borchert with great professional respect, and with love and affection as a person.
Professionally he taught and encouraged me throughout our long association. I was, I recall, briefly a teaching assistant to him in his basic Physical Geography course. I probably learnt as much as the students, especially in techniques of teaching and presentation. I remember taking his Geography of Minnesota course, for I certainly learnt a great deal about the urban and rural geography of the Twin Cities and the State from him. Of course field trips were essential, whether local or further afield. I remember one that assembled at 6 a.m. in the marshalling yards of, I think, the Northern Pacific Railroad in the Twin Cities. As you will know, his interests in this area led to work and publications on the urban and wider scenes. Gerry and I were delighted when years later he gave us a copy of his book on the Upper Midwest, a classic example of how to present a deep understanding of a region in a meaningful way.
He always had a keen interest in weather and climate, and consequently stimulated mine, and I remember many years later sending him the sequence of daily weather maps from a Rangoon newspaper during the month of June - the height of the monsoon rains. An intense low pressure cell centred over the area for about a month made a dramatic map story, and produced about 30 inches of rain on the ground in Rangoon over the month. I believe he displayed the maps on a notice board in the Department.
More importantly for us, over the years he always showed interest in our professional careers, asking critical questions and focusing on key issues. In late March of this year my husband described to him by telephone some research he is doing on space and distance in the Pacific world, and John immediately asked a penetrating question which helped how part of the problem might be handled.
To talk about a friendship which deepened and strengthened over the last several decades, it is impossible to separate John and Jane. They did everything together, supporting each other in every way with great devotion. For us the association started when I asked, with some trepidation, in the summer of 1959, if John would give me away in marriage to this passing young New Zealand geographer from the University of Auckland. Not only did he gladly accept, but Jane offered to hold a "wedding breakfast" at their home in Golden Valley. Unfortunately few photographs remain of this happy occasion, at which Fred Lukermann was "best man", but we did enjoy sharing a meal with John and Jane in The Hague some 5 years ago to celebrate the 37th anniversary of that event.
After I completed the Ph.D and left Minnesota in 1960 we managed to see John and Jane every few years, either when staying with other good friends or at their wonderful home on the bluffs of the St. Croix. We had several memorable visits to their house - highlights included boating gently down to Taylorís Falls for lunch on a glorious summer day; walking through the regenerating prairie of which he was so proud, and in the woods near the house; having his friend and neighbour Walter Mondale (Fritz to John) come over to talk to us (!) about events in the Pacific/Asian area; watching turkey vultures soaring over the river; and exploring the Swedish inheritance of the Scandia area.
Other greatly enjoyable shared experiences included meetings at the Congresses of the International Geographical Union, which I think John like us appreciated because of the opportunities they provided for travel and renewing and strengthening old friendships. The first of these that I recall was in New Delhi in 1968 at the shambolic Indian Congress, the politically-fraught meeting in Paris in 1984, then Washington in 1992 (organised by my former student at Reading University and later Minnesota graduate Tony de Souza); and The Hague in 1996.
Particularly memorable for us was the Congress of 1988 in Sydney, when to our very great delight John and Jane along with many other geographer friends came to Australia. We met John and Jane in Sydney and stayed a night or two in a hotel chosen because it provided the best view of the skyline of Sydney CBD of any I know. After taking them both up the tallest tower in Sydney we let Jane recover a bit from the trip back at the hotel. John and I rode the monorail around Darling Harbour (an old port area now converted to tourism) then took the harbour ferry to Manly, - a trip slightly marred when he discovered he had apparently left his glasses on the ferry. We spent quite a few hours in both ferry terminals attempting to recover them, and I can only guess we were successful in the end. The next day we took John and Jane to our coast house some 5 hours drive down the coast south of Sydney, staying a day or two, bird-watching and exploring the historical geography of a nearby valley. Then inland climbing up through the spectacular eucalyptus forest on the eastern slopes of the Divide, to the contrasting southern tablelands and Canberra. We had promised them an Australian field trip, and knowing Johnís predilection for long road trips and his earlier writing about what he called the "Rainbow Crescent" of eastern Australia I elected to drive them westwards down the long slopes of the Murrumbidgee and Murray valleys to the dead flat interior Merino sheep-raising plains near Hay, a rainfall transect from 60 or more inches on the coast to less than 10 at Hay, with corresponding changes in vegetation and land use. The next day we went south across the Murray River, east through the fertile lands on its south bank, stopped at the rich vineyards in Northern Victoria and so home. I hope John and Jane enjoyed coming to Australia and New Zealand as much as we enjoyed having them visit us.
Gerard and I are grateful to have had the privilege of knowing John and Jane for so long. We applaud and celebrate his professional career and contribution, and we cherish our long friendship with a remarkable and generous man, and his ever-supportive wife.
Marion W. Ward
Grad student 1979-85 (PhD 1985)
It was with great sorrow that I learned, while I was abroad on business, of the death of your father. He was such an inspiration to me. I remember fondly our trip to the AAG in 1980 in Louisville. We took the long way back, via St. Louis. I was amazed at how your father could strike up a conversation with passersby in some of that cityís worst slums and within minutes they would treat him like a long lost friend.
I also remember with some horror your father pulling onto the shoulder of an interstate, in heavy traffic, because of the great view of downtown Louisville behind us. Stopping on a freeway just to take pictures was something I had never done before, but ever since, if the situation warranted it (and the highway patrol was nowhere to be seen) Iíve thought of your father, pulled over, and grabbed my camera.
I was pleasantly surprised to hear from your father just this past summer, after an interlude of several years. I had read an article in the Washington Post by Bill Casey about the unpopularity of the new Sacageweya dollar, which, he cited as an example, his friends "John and Jane" in Scandia, MN had never seen. I sent an e-mail to Casey wondering if his friendsí last name was Borchert and he forwarded the note to your father.
I am very sorry that I will be unable to attend the memorial service next weekend. I will be in Italy and Switzerland on a nonrefundable ticket. I would be very interested in obtaining a video or audio tape of the ceremony if that were possible.
Please give my deepest sympathy and warm regards to your mother (who accompanied us on the 1980 expedition), brothers, and sister.