Larry Sommers, emeritus professor of geography at Michigan State University, died recently at the age of 88. He was widely influential in the discipline as an administrator, researcher, and mentor to students.
Sommers received his PhD from Northwestern University in 1950 with a study of the Scandinavian fishing industry. Although his initial graduate studies were interrupted by service with the U.S. Army in North Africa, he returned to earn a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin following World War II, in 1946.
Sommers received his first academic appointment from Michigan State University, where he received promotion to full professor in 1955. He became the first Chair of the new MSU Department of Geography and helped bring that program to national prominence, overseeing the creation of a PhD program. After 25 years as chair he spent a number of years in the office of the provost. Sommers accepted emeritus status in 1989, 40 years after his first appointment.
After his retirement, Sommers became increasingly active in the Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society, for which he served as national president. In later years he was particularly active in applied geography and was a founding member of the Applied Geography Conference. He also served as U.S. representative to the International Geographical Union and left his mark on numerous other organizations, including the AAG, AGS, WRSA, AAAS, NCGE, Sigma XI, and the Explorers Club.
Lawrence M. Sommers (Necrology). 2007. AAG Newsletter 42(9): 17.