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Doug Richardson Leaves a Legacy of Success for AAG

Doug Richardson

As the tenure of retiring AAG Executive Director Doug Richardson transitions to a new era and directorship, we would like to acknowledge our deep appreciation for his outstanding contributions to the AAG. Here we celebrate his legacy and far-reaching accomplishments, which have been transformative both for the Association and for geography. 

As a new AAG Executive Director in 2003, Richardson quickly engineered a remarkable financial and organizational renewal. During his first decade at the helm, he doubled the AAG’s membership, tripled its Annual Meeting attendance, internationalized the Association, and built a very strong financial foundation for future generations of young geographers. Richardson’s accomplishments showcased his considerable business experience and resulted in outstanding philanthropic fundraising success, including millions of dollars in new reserves and the Douglas Richardson Endowment for Geography’s Future. 

As the AAG’s longest serving Executive Director, Richardson also created a strong focus on geographic research within the AAG, greatly expanding the AAG’s research capacity and portfolio. Richardson actively participated as a PI in many AAG cutting-edge NIH and NSF geospatial health research initiatives. Other research areas he led or developed for the AAG include Geography and the Humanities; Geography and Environmental Health; Diversity and Equity; International Programs on Geographic Science and Sustainable Development; Human Rights; and a cluster area with several staff on Higher Education Research. Richardson’s vision and ability to work productively across the full range and scope of our discipline has created new opportunities to collaborate across our discipline and with others and raised the intellectual visibility and impact of the AAG and Geography. 

During his tenure, Dr. Richardson also encouraged and fostered the professional growth of AAG staff, who produced meaningful and complex research results that added to our body of knowledge and their own professional growth. Additionally, Richardson showed great leadership in addressing crucial issues of deep concern to AAG members, in particular, human rights. Richardson was co-founder of the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition and served as the Chair of the Coalition’s Steering Committee for its first five years. We recognize and commend his early and high-profile work with national and international Human Rights communities and his leadership roles at the Science and Human Rights Coalition as it approaches its 10-year anniversary in 2019. 

Richardson was also a master at negotiating new publishing agreements that support and will extend the international range of AAG’s leading journals well into the next decade. He also has diversified AAG’s academic journal portfolio, adding two new important titles: GeoHumanities and The AAG Review of Books.

A hallmark of his tenure as Executive Director was also his strong and steadfast leadership and support for gender, racial, and ethnicity diversity (and equity) within the AAG and our discipline. His continued support for diversity, inclusion, and mental health well-being initiatives has kept the AAG in tune with current academic standards and expectations. 

We must also congratulate Dr. Richardson for his accomplishment as Editor-in-Chief of the 15-volume International Encyclopedia of Geography: People the Earth Environment and Technology, which was published by Wiley in 2017, and will continue to raise the visibility of geography globally, as a living, update-able publication. Beyond the publication itself, this brought together an impressive array of over 1000 entries and authors, representing the best thought and science of our field internationally. This excellence and impact were recognized by the American Association of College and Research Libraries CHOICE Book Award for an Outstanding Academic Title of 2017, and also was Honorable Mention for RUSA’s Dartmouth Medal. 

Significantly, Richardson also created and funded AAG’s first Public Policy Office, which has yielded impactful actions and statements, and for the first time has given the AAG and its members a respected and effective voice in policy issues in Washington, DC. These carefully cultivated professional liaisons with dozens of federal agencies and policy makers in Washington, DC have successfully impressed the priorities of the AAG on decision makers. 

Altogether, we believe Richardson achieved his stated long-term goal of “propelling the discipline of geography and the AAG itself to new prominence and relevance.” As one distinguished AAG member said, “Dr. Richardson, perhaps more than anyone, has helped build the AAG and strengthen the discipline of geography through his research and leadership. The AAG would not be as strong as it is, and our discipline so vibrant, without the persistent effort and talent of Dr. Richardson.” The AAG applauds Dr. Richardson for his leadership and remarkable accomplishments on our behalf. We wish him well—and perhaps a little relaxation--in the years to come.

He can be reached at dbrichardson@fas.harvard.edu.