Fred Shelley

1952 - 2023

Photo of Fred Shelley

AAG mourns the passing of Fred Shelley, a beloved teacher and mentor in the geography community, who passed away on October 19, 2023. He was a longtime professor at The University of Oklahoma in the Department of Geography, and chair of the department from 2004 until his retirement. 

Dr. Shelley was born on July 22, 1952, to Fred Shelley and Catherine (Murphy) Shelley. He was a 1970 graduate of Albert Einstein High School in Kensington, Maryland, and earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Clark University in 1974. He went on to earn an M.A. in Geography from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1977, and a Ph.D. in geography from the University of Iowa in 1981. 

A political geographer, Dr. Shelley contributed significantly to the study of voting patterns, electoral politics, and voter responses to hot-button issues such as nuclear power. He also did valuable research into groundwater issues in the West. Equally significant were his contributions as a professor, inspiring students and bringing attention to the possibilities of geography for their research and careers. 

“When I was a “baby” geographer, Fred was kind and encouraging and importantly to me, just interested in what I was researching and presenting,” remembers 2023-2024 AAG Council Member and Executive Committee Member Marcia England. “He made many junior scholars feel like they mattered and were a vital part of geography and its future. He cared about geography and it was such a motivating and exciting thing to see as a graduate student (at a different university from his) that struggled with what they were doing and why at times. I will miss him greatly.” 

“Dr. Shelley was my master’s advisor and good friend afterwards,” says Ryan Weichelt, chair of the Department of Geography and Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. “By far Fred’s enduring legacy is his dedication to his students. His commitment to political geography and electoral geography was instrumental for the proliferation of the electoral studies in geography. Fred, along with other electoral geographers, set in motion the creation of numerous Atlases dedicated to U.S. Elections, that continue to this day.”

Beyond research and students, Weichelt notes, Fred Shelley was a “diehard sports fanatic” who especially loved baseball and basketball. “His love for the Oklahoma Thunder was well known. I will never forget watching the 2001 World Series with him. We watched every game together of that historic series.”

Dr. Shelley is survived by his wife Arlene M. Shelley, their son Andrew P. Shelley (wife Lindsey; daughter Hartley Rundell), stepson Edward M Stapleton (wife Melanie; daughter Jenna; son Jackson), brother Larry Shelley (wife Julie Jensen; son David Shelley), and sister Anne Shelley (partner Michael Moffitt).