Association of American Geographers
About AAG Membership Annual Meeting Projects & Programs Education Publications Calendar Of Events Jobs & Careers

Catherine Ball Carlston (1915-2014)

Catherine Ball Carlston Catherine Ball Carlston celebrated her 99th birthday on January 25, 2014; she died peacefully on April 24, 2014, in Springfield, Virginia, after a short illness.  The daughter of Hilda Fischer Ball and Emery F. Ball, of Parkersburg, West Virginia, Catherine Ball Carlston was educated in the Parkersburg public school system, and, in 1936, earned a B.A. degree in geography and mathematics at Denison University, Ohio. At Denison, she became a member of Alpha Phi sorority and was elected to the honorary academic society Phi Beta Kappa.

Following graduation, she returned to her hometown to teach mathematics and physical geography at Parkersburg High School. From 1936 to 1938, she attended Columbia University with a Graduate Resident Scholarship from the Committee for Advanced Instruction in Science to study physiography with emphasis in geomorphology. From 1938 to 1940 she taught physiography in the Wood County public school system in Parkersburg.

She met fellow graduate student Charles W. Carlston at Columbia University. They married in the summer of 1940.

In 1940, Mr. Carlston was appointed to the Water Resources Division of the U.S. Geological Survey, at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He examined whether Alabama’s ground water resources met requirements for military and industrial purposes. The couple spent the war years in Alabama; during that time Mrs. Carlston taught physiography in the Army Specialized Training Program at the University of Alabama.

In 1945, Mr. Carlston accepted an appointment at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY, where their daughter, Sarah Elizabeth, was born. In 1946, he was awarded a Ph.D. in geology, and, in 1947, he accepted a faculty position in the Department of Geology at Oberlin College, Ohio. In 1951, Charles was recruited by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, to study and report on the potential of Pakistani ground water resources. The family primarily lived in Lahore and Quetta, Pakistan. Upon returning to Oberlin, Mrs. Carlston wrote a treatise on the status of women in Pakistan and India, which she presented to the Oberlin branch of the American Association of University Women.

Returning to the Geological Survey in 1953, Mr. Carlston moved his family to Morgantown, West Virginia. In 1957, he transferred to the Survey offices in Arlington, Virginia.  Mr. Carlston died in 1985.

During their years at Oberlin, Mrs. Carlston was a member of the Oberlin branch of the American Association of University Women and served as president of the chapter from 1945 to 1946. In Morgantown, she led a successful campaign to move the city’s library out of its basement home in the city building and into a proper purpose-built home with a dedicated Children’s Room. As part of that campaign Mrs. Carlston organized a month-long festival of recreational reading for children and hosted a local radio program focusing on reading to children. The Carlstons joined with six other families to form the city’s Unitarian Fellowship, which continues to flourish today. During their association with the Fellowship, Mrs. Carlston recruited teachers, installed the Council of Liberal Churches curriculum, and oversaw the church school. In 1955, she participated in a summer religious education week at Star Island, Isles of Shoals, New Hampshire.

In Arlington, Virginia, Mrs. Carlston  worked part-time in the Arlington County Libraries. In the early 1960s, she joined the staff of the Geography and Map Division of the U.S. Library of Congress as a cataloger of atlases. Her next fulltime employment was at the National Academy of Sciences, where she worked for three years as an editor of the Proceedings of the Academy, and for two years with the National Cooperative Highway Research Program, a division of the Highway Research Board.  From 1972 until her retirement in 1985, she edited several editions of the Handbook of Physiology for the American Physiological Society in Bethesda, Maryland. She also co-edited the Physicians Guide to Diving Medicine, published by Plenum in 1984, for the Undersea Medical Society, now the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society.

Mrs. Carlston enjoyed retirement by traveling and taking travel-oriented Smithsonian Courses, with an emphasis in English architecture. Her travels including several Queen Elizabeth II crossings to and from England, two trips to Australia and New Zealand, and two Concorde flights. She attended two one-week programs with her daughter and son-in-law at Christ Church College in Oxford, England, for course work in cathedrals and the Great Houses of Britain. She traveled eight times on the legendary Delta Queen steam ship on the Mississippi and its tributaries.

Mrs. Carlston was active in organizing and teaching in the Lifelong Learning Institute for Seniors in Northern Virginia.

She moved to Greenspring Village in Springfield, Virginia in 1999, where she renewed her membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution, and joined the Early American Glass Society. She founded the Greenspring Play Reading Group, which continues to function today. She also served on the Greenspring Archive Committee.

Catherine had been a member of Rock Spring Congregational Church in Arlington, Virginia, since 1961, and she served the Church on the Religious Education committee and the church library book selection committee.

She was a Life Member of the Association of American Geographers, being elected to that organization in 1962.

She is survived by Sarah Elizabeth Carlston Ulis and Robert M. Ulis.

—Sara Elizabeth Carlston Ulis