Bob Aangeenbrug

1935 - 2003

Photo of Bob Aangeenbrug

Bob Aangeenbrug, a long-time leader in the Association of American Geographers, an early pioneer in the use of technology in geography, and a noted geographic scholar, died May 15, 2003, in Lawrence, KS, his beloved “adopted” home.

Bob was born in Sassenheim, The Netherlands, October 9, 1935, and came to the United States as a child. He earned his B.S. from Central Connecticut State College in 1958, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Wisconsin in 1963 and 1965.

Beginning his stellar academic career as a lecturer at Harvard Laboratory for Computer Graphics in the mid 1960s, Bob later became Assistant Professor at Boston University. In 1966, he made the move that helped shape the rest of his academic career, when he became an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography, University of Kansas.

Kansas was the perfect fit for Bob, and he matured as a scholar of distinction, being promoted to Associate Professor in 1970 and Professor in 1979. Bob had an eclectic and productive career, publishing widely in professional journals, technological outlets and the popular presses in spite of his heavy service commitments. In his early years, he studied population geography, regional issues, and transportation, first locally in Kansas, and then in Latin America, an area that became one of his major research interests. Early in his career, he recognized the potential of information systems and graphic representations to the discipline, and by the mid 1970s he had established his reputation as a scholar in population dynamics and the use of the growing digital media. At the same time, his interests in health care were evolving, again incorporating the innovative use of geographic information systems.

Always an active supporter of the discipline of geography, in 1984 Bob took over as Executive Director of the Association of American Geographers, serving until 1989. Bob’s energy, creativity, and enthusiasm were put to work on improving the infrastructure and the outlook of the Association, making great accomplishments toward that goal in the five years in which he led the Association. He hired capable and loyal staff members, he upgraded the AAG’s financial and membership operations, and he expanded the Association’s collaboration with and links to kindred organizations. Building on the foundations of his predecessors, he took the AAG into the digital world, emphasizing the exciting possibilities of technological advances. His successors faced certain challenges when his directorship at the AAG was over, but none in the realms where Bob had focused his attention and efforts. He was held in high regard by the leaders of other scholarly organizations in Washington, around the country, and all over the world.

From the AAG, Bob took on a new challenge as Chair of the Department of Geography at the University of South Florida, where he built a department of distinction, bringing in new young scholars while continuing to push the development of GIS. He stepped down as chair in 1996, but remained a sounding board and source of knowledge for his successors. Among Bob’s outstanding professional and service contributions, most notable were his commitment to the development and use of information systems, and his dedication to developments in epidemiological and health research. He was active on numerous boards, including the Governor’s (Kansas) Technical Advisory Committee on Information and Communication Systems, which he chaired for several years, and the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association of which he was President. In the health arena, he served as a consultant for the National Center for Health Statistics, and for the United National Center for Human Settlement, and chaired the National Cancer Institute Special Environmental Health Research Group. Indeed, the list goes on and on; Bob was clearly a leader and an active shaper of policy. His many honors included being a Visiting Scholar at the U.S. Bureau of Census as a Fellow of the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping.

Among all this, Bob did not neglect his scholarship and teaching. He was an academic traditionalist, insisting on the highest standards from students, staff and faculty. He put in long hours and expected others to do the same. He insisted that students understand the basics of geography before advancing to higher levels, and maintained an unfashionable concern for regional geography. As an applied geographer, he cared deeply about the relevance of the discipline, constantly seeking ways to better society with his research.

Bob retired from the USF in January 2002, and enjoyed his time in the company of his beloved wife, Mimi, and his family. Tragically, his much-deserved retirement was cut short. His geography family will surely miss him.

Graham A. Tobin, University of South Florida

Bob Aangeenbrug (Necrology). 2003. AAG Newsletter 38(7): 1