Elizabeth J. Leppman

1943 - 2015

Elizabeth Leppman, a respected geographer with broad interests across cultural and historical geography, latterly at Walden University, passed away on September 21, 2015, at the age of 71, after a struggle with cancer.

Elizabeth Jane Leppman was born on December 6, 1943, in Chicago, although she lived in Moorestown, NJ, during most of her childhood. Her father was a German immigrant and she remembered a steady stream of international visitors to their home, sparking an early interest in geography.

After receiving a B.A. from Middlebury College she started her career as a cartographer with Rand McNally. She later received a master’s degree from York University in Toronto and a doctorate from the University of Georgia.

Her PhD thesis, completed in 1997, was entitled “Choices in the Rice Bowl: Geography of Diet in Liaoning Province, China.” Her study examined the difference in nutritional levels and quality of food between city and countryside dwellers. Despite increasing migration to the cities, a reduction in the rural-urban divide, and the modernization of peasant lifestyles, she observed a clear distinction in food behavior between the city and countryside. The work was later published as a book Changing Rice Bowl: Economic Development and Diet in China (2005).

Leppman’s interest in the geography of food and diet continued, along with interests in cultural geography and the geography of religion, the latter spanning religious and sacred landscapes, especially in Appalachia and Central Minnesota, and missions, especially in China and Appalachia, and their worldview. She wrote various scholarly articles and book chapters in each of these fields.

Over the years, Leppman had teaching appointments at Millersville University in Pennsylvania, Miami University of Ohio, St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, the University of Kentucky and Eastern Kentucky University. Most recently she was on the faculty at Walden University where she taught geography and other social science courses.

She was committed to geography education and had a key role in the writing and editing of a number of textbooks, atlases and handbooks for teachers. These included: Teaching Map and Globe Skills, K-6: A Handbook (1982), Working with Historical Maps: Integrating Geography and History Skills (1997), the Student Atlas of World Politics, 6th edition (2004) co-authored with John Allen, Australia and the Pacific (2005), and Exploring Geography Through Primary Sources (2011).

Leppman served terms as editor of the Journal of Geography, published by the National Council for Geographic Education, and also as editor of Geography of Religions and Belief Systems, the online journal of the AAG’s specialty group.

She was a member of the AAG since 1975. Her involvement in a diverse range of specialty groups – including China, Cultural Geography, Geography of Religions and Belief Systems, Health and Medical Geography, Historical Geography, Political Geography, and Study of the American South – reflected her varied interests within geography.

Her geographic passions spilled over into the rest of her life. She enjoyed travel, photography, Chinese art and culture, local and state history, and many other interests. She was also a devoted parishioner in Episcopal churches in the many communities where she lived, latterly in Lexington, KY, where she was involved with Good Shepherd Episcopal Church and was a committed volunteer at Mission Lexington, among other community activities.

Leppman accomplished much and liked to keep busy. Her family said: “Elizabeth’s life was always dominated by her present list of projects and by future even more ambitious ones…”

She is survived by her brother John, daughter Karen, son Bradford, grandchildren Tyler and Kelsey, and cat Peaches.