Memories and Reflections of David Hooson
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Send items to Natalia Vonnegut: nat@berkeley.edu

Reflection by Kim Charnofsky
As you will see from this lengthy reminiscence (written Fall 2008), much of my personal history is tied up with Berkeley Geography (from 1979 through 1989, and beyond), and David was an integral person and a blazingly positive force during my experience there. I want to share with you the influences he had on me, to illustrate what kind of a person he was.

I feel so fortunate to have known David Hooson, and to have received the gift of peering through his geographic lenses on the world. I will always be a geographer at heart, seeking a map and a high place when I arrive in a new town, and asking those penetrating questions about “the why of where,” and David was one of my inspirations in forging this lifelong identity.

I have been missing David especially these past few weeks as events have heated up between Georgia and Russia, and Ukraine and Russia, wishing for some of his calm insights into the dynamics between people and place in those regions. What a great advisor he would have made to our next President!

I met David during my undergraduate years at Berkeley (1979-1984) and was so inspired by him that I ultimately asked him to be my senior undergraduate honors thesis advisor. I was drawn by David's impressive and seemingly effortless skill at framing classroom discussions with a geographic eye, discussions solidly founded in a broad knowledge base. I left his “History of Geographic Thought” course wishing I had had his class before, rather than after, all of my others, since it placed my other coursework in such clear perspective.

I also appreciated David's understated delivery during lectures, his quiet sense of humor, and that merry twinkle in his eye. David was unusual in that while he had a keen intellect, he was also gifted in human relations, and placed a premium on getting along with people. I remember being a graduate student representative and attending faculty meetings one year, and feeling stunned at the poor behavior displayed by some of the gentlemen present. When I mentioned it to David afterward, he helped me place it in perspective, soothing my naiveté and showing me how to let go of my preconceptions about my professors as somehow being superhuman.

David was exceptionally supportive of my undergraduate honors thesis, reassuring me in my choice of a topic that (like many geographic topics) straddled the edge of several disciplines -- geography, music, and education. (The Map Sings: A Method for Teaching Geography Through Music in the Elementary Schools, 1984)

Whereas some in the Ivory Tower dismissed studying “education” and “pedagogy” as something that should be done in the School of Education and not in the Department of Geography, David understood the critical need to infuse education into geography, and geography into education, and wholeheartedly and enthusiastically encouraged my project. When I was done, he paid me a wonderful compliment by phoning a friend at Turtle Island Press, a local publishing house, to see if he might be looking for something like my thesis to publish. David also wrote words that I will never forget because they touched me so: “Kim, This is indeed a gift for American children of all ages.”

When it came time for me to apply to graduate school, David wrote one of my recommendation letters, and then “went to bat” to get me into the Department of Geography. Because one of my other professors forgot to submit his recommendation letter for me (unbeknownst to me at the time), I was at a great competitive disadvantage, having only two of three required letters. Probably the “borderline” nature of my research interests and thesis topic did not help convince faculty members that I had a research focus worthy of the Department. Somehow, David convinced them to select me, for which I was, and am, eternally grateful!

I TA'd for David for his Political Geography class, and never ceased to be amazed at how he deftly handled the questions the undergraduates posed, which came from every angle, covering every portion of the globe. He knew so much about the world and its peoples, and he was able to articulate his ideas clearly and simply, posing return questions that got students thinking as geographers.

When David saw that I was getting exhausted by my commitments in graduate school as well as the private music teaching with children that I had continued, he gently suggested I give up the music teaching work and focus more intently on my graduate studies. Although I was never able to completely give up teaching music, I cut back on my hours, and appreciated David's suggestion and his concern.

To help supplement my income, David was kind enough to get me hired on as a Research Assistant for a brief period of time, and I combed through hundreds of articles (in English) on the then-USSR, to help gather materials for his book.

David opted out of being my MA thesis advisor (since my topic focused on California and the historical and geographical factors involved in the development of mineral and hot springs), but was an active member of my thesis committee, with Professor Parsons chairing. My hope was to focus my PhD dissertation on the Caucasus region of the USSR, where mineral and hot springs also played a significant role in development, and I hoped David would be my advisor during that endeavor. To that end, he helped me obtain a James D. Kline Fund for International Studies grant to travel to the Caucasus and do some preliminary research, which I did, an incredible experience. He also supported my application for a Mellon Fellowship to study Russian in a summer language institute, which was granted.

However, after completing my MA (1989), I found myself depressed, struggling financially, and burnt out on the “politics” of the Department. I took a “break” and got hired as an environmental/urban planning researcher at an urban planning firm in San Francisco. I discovered I liked the work, got promoted to environmental analyst, and then urban planner, and realized that I was not ready to commit to earning a PhD and the academic life that would entail.

After four years working for the urban planning firm, I also realized I wanted to work with children, and found my calling as a school psychologist, and returned to graduate school to study this field. I've contentedly been a school psychologist since finishing my program in 1996, with breaks to have two beautiful children.

When I talked with David about my feelings in the early 1990s, I knew he was disappointed in my choice not to return to the Department, and I felt terrible that he had invested so much time and energy in me, only to have me “flake out.” But David didn't chastise me nor attempt to make me feel guilty. No, instead he told me he understood that I needed to find my way and follow my heart, and not try to be somebody I wasn't, just to please him, or anybody else. That was a message I needed to hear during that tough transition time, and, again, I find myself eternally grateful for his support.

I felt, during these discussions, that David really cared about me as a person, and didn't see me as simply a disappointing student. I valued his opinions, insights, advice, and felt that David, as a mentor, was so much more than simply a professor assigned to advise me. I spoke with many other students during those years who felt the same way about him, and his commitment to them.

David attended our “wonderful woodland wedding” in 1994 in John Hinkle park in Berkeley, sitting with David Stoddart. My husband (who was also a Berkeley Geography student) and I were so pleased to feel that these esteemed representatives from our years at Berkeley Geography, as well as other special friends from the Department, were a part of our special day. Our wedding was filled with musical performances, including our Geography band, “The Sauer Singers,” a name that David always enjoyed.

It was with shock and deep sadness that I read David's name in the obituary section of my California magazine. I blinked and blinked, but the name stayed the same, only blurred by my tears. When I last spoke with him in October 2007 by phone he sounded vibrant, healthy, and energized, and when I got off the phone I had the sense that he would be around for many years to come. Although that prophetic feeling turned out to be incorrect when considering David's physical being, his intellectual and emotional influence brightly lives on in so many of us. I am so thankful that our paths meandered near each other, crossing occasionally in meaningful ways, on this journey of life.
Reflection by Dr. Mechtild Rossler
Recently I found a tape of a lively interview which I carried out with David Hooson, soon after I arrived in Berkeley in early 1991. The interview was mainly about David's journey across the world and across his discipline, geography. We spoke about his discovery of the world and the world of discovery, his travels to Russia, the unusual and “unorthodox” approach to understanding different cultures. This tape conserved his energy and spirit and particularly his immense interest in the history of geography and geographical thought.
David always understood geography in the broadest context and he stated in 2001 "To lead the world, one needs to know about it, and geography is fundamental to that kind of knowledge," (UC Berkeley commencement ceremony in 2001). At the same time he firmly believed that you have to reflect critically about your own history and your own discipline. He was specifically active, in the IGU Commission on History of Geographical Thought conceived in the 1960s where he played a major role (including as President) together with his friend Philippe Pinchemel, who died shortly before David in 2008.
Gerhard Sandner once wrote about the Commission: “It is unique, in these days, in that it deals with the whole subject of Geography, not just some branches, but the entire historical record of its scientific achievements. We believe it has made itself virtually indispensable - a "standing commission" in all but name - and its renewed endorsement by the IGU in 1988 testifies to that. Geography's accomplishments, especially over the past century, are cause not only for pride but for retrospection and critical evaluation. As so many of the world's pressing problems seem to be taking on more and more of a geographical component, set alongside the paradox that our discipline is still inadequately recognized in many of our countries, it seems very desirable to look up from time to time from our urgent tasks and to ask how we have evolved as a unified way of thinking about the world, who we have been and critically examine our shortcomings as well as our achievements. The Commission is obviously the coordinating vehicle for such work at present, in an international context and, with respect for its achievements and affection for its distinctive far-flung community of scholars, may we wish it - at its coming-of-age - many happy returns. (Gerhard Sandner: History of Geographical Thought and Political Context: Reflections on the Commission's Symposia at Bundanoon (1988) and Hamburg (1989), In Geojournal, vol 26, No. 2, February 1992, 217-218)

David welcomed this critical work and I personally experienced this with my studies on Geography and National Socialism when I first presented it to an AAG meeting in the mid-1980s - at a time when nothing had been published about the subject so far. He encouraged me to continue and was part of the discussions with Gerhard Sandner, Marie Claire Robic, Anne Buttimer, and Walter Manshard who came together in 1989 in Hamburg (Germany) for the World Congress on History of Science. He subsequently supported the work on the History of the IGU, finally published in 1996 at the occasion of the IGU Congress in The Hague under the title: “Géographes face au monde. L'Union Géographique Internationale et Les Congrès Internationaux de Géographie. Geographers and the World. The International Geographical Union and the International Geographical Congresses “ (Paris: Harmattan 1996).

David was the person who brought me to California as a visiting scholar and it changed my life. I felt at home and my friendship with David and Margaret continued over time. He made us feel at home in Point Reyes and showed us his favorite spots, including his favorite place in the world, Shell Beach, where he died. I remember when I came over with Martine Kraus, Eleanor, Kofman and Marie Claire Robic another fellow historian of geography, after the 1992 IGU Congress in Washington DC: David felt at ease in the world and at home in Marin County. “There are only a few places in the world where you can smell cows on the main street; one of them is Point Reyes Station”. To understand the world in a way, you need to be connected and David was connected both to Wales and to California, he was connected to the world but also to many people from diverse backgrounds, places and cultures.
David was a very special person, a wonderful geographer in the true sense of the word, and we certainly will continue with many of the ideas he started within the history of geographical thought.

Dr. Mechtild Rossler
UNESCO World Heritage Centre
m.rossler@unesco.org

Reflection by Alison Raynes-Hooson, first wife to David Hooson
David Hooson and I met as graduate students in 1948 in the Senate House Library of the University of London, and were married two years later in Hertford Castle.

We each taught in high schools for two years until David began his PhD at the London School of Economics. I obtained a senior teaching post, and financed David until he had completed his thesis, which was on the Chilterns Straw hat industry.

David’s first university post was at Glasgow. It was there that he learned Russian, and also there that our son was born, in 1956. a few weeks later, David, who had failed to get tenure at Glasgow, left Britain to take up a post at the University of Maryland.

The following four years, spent so near the resources of the Library of Congress, were a very productive time for David, and our daughter was also born in Maryland in 1959.

Early in 1960, David received job offers from the Universities of Toronto and British Columbia on the same day. We chose Vancouver and had five years living on the U.B.C. Endowment lands in happy surroundings and with exceptional neighbors, e.g., Agnes, in the barn next door, was Canada’s butterfat champion.

I had been accepted to start a library degree at U.B.C. when David was asked to join the Geography Department at Berkeley. After much thought, given the Vietnam War and other disincentives, we agreed to come.

It is good that David distinguished himself, as scholar and teacher, at Berkeley, and that his work, both latterly and earlier, has been of benefit to the wider world.
Reflections by Gray Brechin (spoken at David's UC Berkeley memorial on August 24)
Several years ago, I took a Toonerville trolley west from Shrewsbury into what the Welsh call the “mountains” that have so ineffectively guarded Wales from its hungry neighbor England for centuries. I was going to give a paper at the University of Wales in Aberystwyth. I’m Welsh on my mother’s side, and as the train crossed that invisible border, I felt that my genes were clapping their chromosomes for joy to be back home. And I also felt a deeper bond with David Hooson whom I knew had come from a farm somewhere near where that train was passing, and which he’d left during the Great Depression to study at Oxford.

I’d first taken courses from Professor Hooson when at Berkeley as an undergraduate in 1970, and like most undergraduates, I looked upon him with awe. How could you not be impressed by that beard and especially when he appeared at graduations in the full cardinal regalia of an Oxford don? (We who wear the Blue & Gold always envied him that.) But then, years later when waiting to get into Green’s Restaurant in SF, I saw David waiting for a table holding hands with Margaret, and they looked just like real people in sandals and very much in love in a shaft of sunlight. And then I came back to UC late in life to do a doctorate in 1992, and that’s when a friendship began that deepened, especially with that Welsh connection, and with Inverness — the one in West Marin.

I was lucky enough to have a rental studio for about two years down the road from where the Hoosons live on Tomales Bay, so I saw a lot more of them and their ever-growing pride of cats, especially Gusto. David even got me to go swimming in Tomales Bay one time, telling me it was much warmer in the late summer. That was the only time he lied to me. I had a crazy notion that I was going to learn Welsh — an enormously useful language in colonies of the formerly mighty Welsh empire — and David would coach me in how to twist the tongue and spit to get the proper pronunciation of the much used double-L. We finally gave up: the human tongue was not designed to speak that language unless one grew up on a Welsh farm surrounded by thousands of sheep that David, as a young man, had no intention to commune with, so the farm passed to his younger brother John. But David and I shared the well-kept secret of the Welsh: we are the master race, though we’ve been under occupation for 500 years. Our time is coming; David had a poster of the Welsh Liberation Front over his desk. If not a terrorist himself, he was doubtlessly a fellow traveler.

You seldom hear academics these days described as a gentleman and a scholar, but David was both in the same stocky and bearded package. He was at critical times the cartilege that cushioned inflamed factions in the Department and the university itself, so he was much in demand as an administrator. But above all, he was a Geographer’s Geographer, proud of the history of the profession of which he was an internationally recognized authority. He would always chide me gently when someone identified me as an historian, so that, for David’s sake, I would try to gently correct them to remind them that I’m a Geographer, and that Geography has a proud past, like the Welsh. He himself, like his Oxford model, Halford Mackinder, was deeply imbued with how places evolve over time, and how we must understand places in time. Mackinder developed the “Heartland” thesis that saw Central Asia as the key to world developments. David made himself an expert on the Asian heartland so that I have been particularly missing him in the last few weeks as I look at maps of the Caucasus and Caspian regions. I know that he could have explained to the Department and the world just what is happening now in Georgia and South Ossetia as no one else could.

David brought the Welsh writer Jan Morris here to give the Sauer Lecture several years ago, and through David and Cariadne Margaret I became friends with Jan. I’ve visited her several times at her old stone house in north Wales west of the Hooson farm. Jan says that her religion is kindness. I don’t know if that, along with sagacity, is yet another one of many Welsh virtues, or if it was David’s religion, but it certainly was wound into his DNA. The world needs a great deal more kindness to replace what left it with David’s passing.
Reflections by James D. Sidaway and Mark Bassin
Mark Bassin (University of Birmingham, UK) and James D. Sidaway (University of Plymouth, UK) are preparing a set of short papers and reflections (and a transcript of an interview with David, conducted in April 2007) on aspects of - and as a tribute to - David's work. This set will be published in the journal Geopolitics in 2009 (details to follow).
Reflection by Victor R. Savage
I arrived in Berkeley in 1976 and over my three years took both an undergrad and graduate module on Geographic Thought taught by Prof David Hooson.  David came across as the quintessential English gentleman, no doubt he would  take offence to the use of English and replace it with Welsh. He never forgot to remind people of the great personalities that were from Wales including on one occasion, citing Richard Burton. Coming from a small Commonwealth country such as Singapore, David's British accent was distinctive in an American environment and certainly reassuring and familiar for me. I realize in many private conversations he was proud of the British colonial legacy - the proof of this colonial tradition was in the many Commonwealth students he met. In his seminars, he demonstrated a great sense of humour and dry British wit. I recall his exchange with one of my fellow graduate students who brought her dog to class even though dogs were not allowed in the Earth Sciences Building. There was a wonderful exchange between David and student, with typical sarcasm, humour and witty bantering that to this day it remains vivid in my memory. It began with David saying, that I believe there is a four legged geography student in our class. To which the student replied, yes and a pretty intelligent and attentive student as well?.. the repartee went on for at least 5 minutes to the delight of all the students in class.

David loved his work, academic life, administration, his students and Berkeley and this came through in conversations with him. In geographic thought, he was always proud to cite Berkeley's unique geographic tradition: in later years he discussed academically the "Berkeley School of Cultural Geography" and he felt very much a product and contributor to this geographic tradition. Despite his work on Russian Geography,  David's heart lay in the social, political and cultural expressions in Geography. Berkeley led the cultural turn in geography way before it became fashionable as an ism. And Professor David Hooson was part of that fine academic tradition. He had a macro grasp of global issues and the role geography played in them. And I am grateful to be a beneficiary of his ideas, thoughts and wisdom.

Victor R Savage
PhD (1982)
Reflection by Kristin Nelson
I am very sad to hear that David Hooson has left us. We last saw each other a few years ago on Shell Beach, the beauty of which he so loved, and where he saw his last morning. I will miss his warmth, enthusiasm, and his humorous, skeptical-while-completely-devoted attitude toward the academy. It does make me feel good to think how much of himself he's left behind, in not only his children but in the legions of students who benefited from his lifelong study and appreciation of geography, history, and world culture.

David seemed to know very well how to appreciate the important things in life. Perhaps his childhood in rural Wales gave him the sense of humor and of proportion that I recognized from my parents, also "refugees" from a farming community. I'll never forget David's unfailing kindness and generosity to me through the years. I send my sympathies to all fellow colleagues and friends of David, and to Margaret and his whole family.

Kristin Nelson
Assistant Professor
Department of Psychology
McDaniel College, Maryland
Reflection by Aviva Lev-Ari
I am very sad to learn about another vast loss to Humanity, to Academia, to UC, Berkeley and to Human Geography.

David Hooson was probably one of the men with the greatest generosity of spirit I have encountered in my life.

His courses were a 360 degree vista to human ecology with the finest sensitivity to the human condition paralleled only to the one I learned about in Bernard Q. Nietschmann's courses at Berkeley.

David Hooson will ever have a special place in my heart for being most kind to me in several critical junctions in my career: (a) the admission to the doctoral program in the department, (b) while I was a doctoral student at UC, Berkeley, 1978-1983, as an international student in his courses, in need for TLC while facing the liability of newness to the academic landscape at UCB (c) meeting with me when my doctoral advisor, Prof. Allan Pred was on Sabbatical and I was writing my thesis, (d) his most WARM greetings at the end of the graduation ceremony, 5/1983, when I held my 18 month old son in my arms, he said to me, "Aviva, you are the only PhD we had, to have a baby while a doctoral student, and to graduate in five years, our average used to be 7 1/4 years" (e) a lengthy conversation during an Open House weekend in the Department in the late 80s, (f) a conversation during the Memorial to James E. Vance, Jr., (g) a conversation at a Memorial Lecture to Professor Carl O. Sauer, and on our last meeting at the Centennial celebration to the department.

David Hooson and no other man, has let me feel during the moments he offered his undivided attention to me, that for me, I deserve to be on the stage and for him, he ought to offer himself to this dyad encounter without reservation, unconditional and the time can and should flow, how much it is needed to complete an intellectual exchange, with content, merit and otherwise, unmet European style, as only an Englishman is natural in, as Prof. Hooson showed us all what is it all about.

To Prof. Hooson's family, I say to you, His expressive face is in front of my eyes and I am tearing. His legacy as a Humanist will remain eternal in the minds of all his colleagues and all his students -- a touching smile just to comfort the other's heart. He put so many at peace with themselves, he has reached Cosmological Peace now.

Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD'83
Reflection by Martin J. (Mike) Pasqualetti
Check the photo taken at the 100 anniversary of the Berkeley Geography Department a few years ago.  There I am standing to the right of David Hoosen, front and center, as if I were somehow equal to him.  We had walked over to the library together that day with all the others for the photograph, talking the whole way.  He was always interested in what I was doing and was always happy to see me.  I considered him a friend, and as a friend I was greatly saddened to hear today of his passing. I met David in 1966 when I took a pro-seminar from him on geographic thought.  I still have the paper I wrote for that class.  I always credited him with writing the letter of recommendation supporting my application to LSU for my MA degree.  The letter and his good wishes sent me on my way to a career in geography.  Every time I saw David I told him how much he meant to me, his scholarship, his example, his generosity and his kindness.  I looked right at him and repeated just those words before the assembled crowd at the 100th anniversary gathering. He so enjoyed life, his family, his profession, and his days near Tomales Bay.  I feel the pain for the loss of this good man, my earliest mentor and lifelong friend.  I wish to pass on my warmest sympathies to his family.  I grieve along with them today.

Martin J. (Mike) Pasqualetti, Ph.D.
Professor
School of Geographical Sciences
Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ 85287-0104
Pasqualetti@asu.edu
Send your reflection to Nat Vonnegut in Department of Geography
nat@berkeley.edu