AAG Ronald F. Abler Distinguished Service Honors: John Frazier, Rita Gardner

The AAG is pleased to award the 2015 AAG Ronald F. Abler Distinguished Service Honors to Dr. John Frazier and Dr. Rita Gardner.

This award will be presented to Frazier for his sustained and exceptional dedication to furthering the public good through applied academic and intellectual pursuits. Frazier has worked consistently and steadily to encourage departments and universities to recognize the importance of applying scholarship to practice. The applied geography conference which he was instrumental in bringing to fruition is now in its 35th year. More recently he has expended similar energies toward funding and organizing biennial Race, Ethnicity, and Place conferences which succeed largely because of his vision to preserve a place for intellectually divergent ideas on the some of the most vexing and complicated issues in the world today.

Gardner receives the Distinguished Service Honor in recognition of the leadership and support for the discipline of geography worldwide. As Director of the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers since 1996, Gardner has worked tirelessly to advance geographic research; improve geography at all levels of education; broaden outreach to diverse publics; and promote the interests of geography on numerous national and international committees.

Citations for John Frazier and Rita Garner follow. 

John Frazier, Binghamton University, State University of New York


Professor John Frazier was selected for the 2015 AAG Distinguished Service Honors from a field of noteworthy candidates because of the enthusiastic and compelling support he received from a large and diverse group of academics and practitioners.


A number of common themes stand out in their endorsement. They consistently note his “unselfish commitment to advancing knowledge and serving others through creative initiatives and sustained engagement, . . . he rarely puts himself in the forefront, but by actively following through on good ideas, he has had a transformative impact on our discipline and our profession.” “The mark he has made on the reputation of the Department of Geography at Binghamton University, which under his guidance has become one of finest Masters level departments in the country is worthy of note not by just by his students – many of whom wrote letters in support of his nomination – but by the University system which last year, awarded him the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Distinguished Service. Along with this honor, he was promoted to the rank of University Distinguished Service Professor.

His work mentoring students and early career geographers has made geography a far more diverse and welcoming field for racial, ethnic and foreign-born minorities,” due in large part to his pragmatic approach, which inspired many young professionals to use geographic skills and toolkits to make a difference in the world.

In addition to his work in the academy, Frazier has also been appointed a member of several interdisciplinary teams involved with local and regional comprehensive planning agencies, HUD, and the U.S. Census Bureau. Through this work, he has been a champion of geography and helped to educate many outside the field of its value – and centrality – in understanding topics such as gentrification, epidemiology, migration, and housing.

Frazier has also served as a National Councillor for the Association of American Geographers and a Councilor for the American Geographical Society. The AGS strives to connect geographers in academics, government and business. Given his critical role in outreach to applied geographers, Dr. Frazier has been particularly active in the AGS Council to make certain the work of applied geographers is promoted and recognized. His work was recognized by the Association in awarding him the James Anderson medal for Applied Geography.

One supporter noted that remarkably few geographers have been able to make significant contributions to more than one subfield within the discipline. Dr. Frazier has been a founder, leader, and energizer of two: one in applied geography, and one in race and ethnicity. . . his record reflects someone with a patient, enduring commitment to the discipline, to teaching, and to addressing pressing social problems.   When we look back on geography some decades from now, and in doing so see discipline that supports those who give unselfishly and generously to the discipline, we will be pleased that we recognized John Frazier for his tireless efforts.

Rita Gardner, Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers


Dr. Rita Gardner is awarded the 2015 Association of American Geographers Ronald F. Abler Distinguished Service Honors in recognition of the leadership and support for the discipline of geography worldwide that she has provided as Director of the Royal Geographical Society and Institute of British Geographers especially her promotion of geography at all levels of education, her outreach to diverse public, and her service on national and international committees.

Gardner has served as Director of the Royal Geographical Society and the Institute of British Geographers since 1996, the internationally respected learned society and professional body for geography and geographers in the UK. Under her leadership the Society has modernized and expanded its activities reaching out to more than 16,000 members and fellows from 160 different countries as well as millions of people worldwide through research, expeditions, education and public engagement.

Among her many accomplishments are the Action Plan for Geography to support and expand geography in UK schools and projects to engage public audiences in geography including public understanding of Britain’s geography from the air and walking and community partnerships and programs for diaspora groups and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. She has also been a strong supporter of research, raising funds for early career grants, and encouraging greater awareness of the value of geographic research to government.

Her support of research and fieldwork reflects her interests and achievements as geomorphologist prior to her appointment with RGS holding academic posts at King’s College London and Queen Mary College. Her research and publications include results from international field research programs studying environmental change, including soil erosion in Nepal and dunes in India.

Dr. Gardner has served on many national and international committees including for the British Antarctic Survey; the Academy of Social Sciences; and British Council. She was Secretary General of the European Association of Geographical Societies and the advisor for Geography to the UK Secretary of State for Education and Skills. She was awarded a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) for ‘Services to Geography’ in 2003. She holds Honorary Doctorates from the Universities of Gloucestershire and Southampton, and an Honorary Fellowship of Queen Mary College London.