David Schwarz (1936-2019) was a professor of geography at San Jose State University. He passed away in Gilroy, CA, aged 82, after a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease.
He was born in Mattoon, Illinois, the 2nd of 7 children raised in a two-bedroom home with a coal stove for heat, and no indoor plumbing. After graduating from Mattoon H.S. he had a series of part-time jobs. The one that became the most significant was as a disk-jockey at a local radio station playing country and western music. To his friends, he seemed to know every country and western song ever recorded (both lyrics and melody). A random word or phrase in conversation would sometimes launch him into a song.
He continued with part-time jobs while attending Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, a few miles east of Mattoon. He graduated in 1963 with a double major, art and geography. One part-time job using his art skills, was to paint colorful signs in grocery store windows advertising weekly sales. It was during this era that he served six years in the National Guard.
David then attended Southern Illinois University (1963-1965), but left to pursue a Ph.D. degree at the University of Kansas under David Simonett, a world-renowned scholar in the field of remote sensing. Dr. Schwarz completed his Ph.D. in 1975, with a dissertation titled “Variability of the Accuracy of Delineating Agricultural Field Boundaries from Satellite Images of the United States.” He accepted a position in geography at San Jose State University in 1971, and rose through the ranks to become a full professor. David’s publications were in the general area of remote sensing, and he taught many courses on this subject. He spent his entire career at SJSU, and was an excellent teacher, attracting many students to his regional classes. He had small classes of dedicated students when teaching technical courses (as remote sensing, digital image processing, geographic information systems, cartography, and the like).
SJSU was in financial difficulty in the early 1980s, and social science layoffs were threatened. David helped alleviate this situation by accepting a position as a Visiting Professor at the Air Force Academy for two years (1980-82). He later taught courses on statistics in the College of Business in order to strengthen their doctoral program (in areas for which he was not trained, business or statistics, but he did an excellent job). Throughout his career David served on university committees and gained much knowledge of the university and how it operated. He was a very likeable and competent person, known for his integrity, and thoughtful and reserved demeanor. One of his colleagues called him “the Gary Cooper of the university.” Through committee work he developed many friendships with fellow professors in different disciplines. This deep background was a great help when he accepted administrative positions at SJSU.
Dave began his administrative work as Chair of Geography and Environmental Studies (1991-1995). He had the difficult and challenging task attempting to unite the two disciplines. David later began a five-year term (1996-2001) as Associate Dean in the College of Social Studies. These were the happiest years in his career, as he received wonderful support from the college staff, and from friends and staff in various departmental offices. David retired from SJSU in 2001, but continued to teach a course most semesters until the sudden departure of a dean. He once again helped SJSU, as he served as a dean for another year, and retired for the last time in 2005.
He is survived by his wife Deborah Walker Schwarz, two children, Sarah Nilsson and Noah Schwarz, and two grandchildren. He was predeceased by his parents, Raymond Noah and Gladys Elizabeth Schwarz, and two brothers James and Joseph Schwarz.
By Malcolm Comeaux and Deborah Schwarz