Mike Harrison, a geographer with broad interests across physical geography and environmental studies, passed away on November 21, 2015, at the age of 55.
John Michael Harrison completed his bachelor’s degree at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute followed by a master’s degree at the University of Georgia.
He then moved to the University of Florida for doctoral studies, funded by the National Science Foundation and under the supervision of Peter Waylen. His thesis, entitled “The Modeling of Daily Precipitation in Costa Rica,” examined the means by which daily precipitation in Costa Rica could be modeled, and how the El Nino-Southern Oscillation affected precipitation-generating mechanisms.
Harrison distinguished himself in a series of tenure-track and tenured faculty positions, first as Professor of Geography at the University of Southern Mississippi then as Professor in the Department of Geography and the Environment at the University of Richmond. There he played a major role in creating the Environmental Studies Program, designing its curriculum, establishing facilities to support GIS, and recruiting those faculty members who now lead the effort.
He then moved to the Political Science and Geography Department at the University of Texas at San Antonio. During his time there he was honored with a Distinguished Teaching Award from the National Council for Geographic Education. More recently he moved back to live in Virginia and work as an Independent Scholar.
Harrison worked across various sub-fields of the discipline including physical geography, climatology, Latin American studies, mathematical modeling, GIS and remote sensing.
His presentations at the AAG Annual Meeting over recent years give a flavour of his broad-based interests: using remote sensing techniques to assess the rapid growth of the greater Las Vegas region; applying GIS analysis to examine relationships between rabies incidence and inter-annual climate variability; running models of the winds associated with the El Nino-Southern Oscillation to assess whether Polynesians could have travelled from Easter Island to South America; and a GIS analysis of how renaming a road in Atlanta after Martin Luther King affected socio-economic conditions.
Harrison was a long-time member of the AAG and particularly involved in the Southeast Division (SEDAAG). He held various service positions in SEDAAG and served on the Editorial Board of The Southeastern Geographer. He was also a member of the American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing.
Beyond his professional accomplishments, Harrison will be remembered as a thoughtful and giving colleague, and will be greatly missed. He is survived by his wife, Kathy Pendleton Harrison, as well as his mother, brother and sister.