Tom McKnight died peacefully of kidney problems on February 16, 2004.
Shortly after his 75th birthday, he underwent hip replacement and during the rehabilitation process developed the kidney problems that lead to his death.
McKnight earned a bachelor of arts degree in geology at Southern Methodist in 1949, a master’s in geography at Colorado in 1951, and a Ph.D. in geography and meteorology at Wisconsin in 1955. He began a distinguished teaching and writing career at UCLA in 1956. He retired there in 1993, having gone from Assistant Professor to Full Professor, and was Professor Emeritus at the time of his death. He played many roles at UCLA in those thirty-seven years, and served as departmental Chair from 1978-83.
It was during his term as Chair that he initiated an outreach effort to community college teachers in Southern California. Periodic meetings of varied teachers led to a creative and stimulating interaction between faculty in different academic settings. The seeds of the national Geographic Alliance movement were planted in this McKnight-UCLA innovation. The National Geographic Society diffused this extraordinarily popular concept of teachers from K-12 through to graduate level all working together in the promotion of increased geographic interest, both in education and public awareness.
McKnight’s breadth of belief in geography is shown in his love of the concept of “landscape appreciation” which he defined as “an understanding of everything that one can see, hear, and smell—both actually and vicariously—in humankind’s zone of living on the earth.” During the last decade of his life, McKnight and his wife, geographer Joan Clemons, carried these interests to all corners of the world, and Tom wrote of the wonders of such geography in a number of evocative texts and numerous articles. Although Australia received the lion’s share of McKnight’s foreign fieldwork and writing, his global interests were catholic and touched all continents except Antarctica.
Anyone wishing to remember Tom McKnight in a more formal way is encouraged to send contributions to Friends of Geography (FOG) c/o Department of Geography, 1255 Bunche Hall, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1524.
Tom McKnight (Necrology). 2004. AAG Newsletter 39(5): 19.