1931 - 2013
George A. Schnell (1931-2013), Founding Chair of the Department of Geography at the State University of New York at New Paltz, died on July 31, 2013.
A proud native of Philadelphia, George served in the Army from 1952-1954, and then attended West Chester University in PA. After graduating in 1958, he married Mary Lou Williams and had three sons, David, Douglas, and Thomas, who survive him with their spouses and children.
Hired by SUNY New Paltz in 1962 in the Division of Area Studies and Geography, he then earned his Ph.D. from Penn State University in 1965 with E. Willard Miller and George F. Deasy as advisors. The following year, he was invited to the University of Hawaii’s summer program as a visiting associate professor.
Schnell was tasked with developing with colleagues an undergraduate BA/BS curriculum at SUNY New Paltz. Once this degree was approved in 1968, he became the founding chairman of the Department of Geography Department at SUNY New Paltz and then served for more than 25 years as chair.
He was a formidable presence on campus, often serving as chair of important committees and was well-known as bridge-builder between and among departments and programs. He served as principal advisor for all Geography majors and minors for nearly thirty years.
The United University Professions presented a 1990 Excellence Award to him in 1990 for mastery of specialization and service to the community. West Chester University recognized him as a Distinguished Alumnus in 1994. In 2006, he was named Distinguished Teacher Emeritus by the SUNY New Paltz Alumni Association.
He was a co-founder and founding director of the Institute for Development and Land Use Planning (ID-plus) at SUNY New Paltz from 1986-1996 as well as a founding member of the Hudson Valley Study Center from 1995-1998. He served on numerous local boards and committees in the Town and Village of New Paltz and the Town of Gardiner.
Throughout his highly productive career, his research included wide-ranging studies of the characteristics of population in Pennsylvania as well as publications useful to educators at all levels. For many years, he was actively involved with the AAG’s High School Geography Project, and one of the authors/editors of The Local Community: A Handbook for Teachers (1968).
He was a regular contributor to the journals of the Pennsylvania Academy of Sciences, the Pennsylvania Geographic Society, and the Middle States Division of the Association of American Geographers. Between 1983 and 2002, he authored or coauthored chapters for numerous books on environmental and demographic issue published by the Pennsylvania Academy of Science.
He was the co-author with Mark Monmonier of Syracuse University of many publications, including The Study of Population: Elements, Patterns, Processes (1983) and Map Appreciation (1988). With George Demko, and Harold Rose, he was the editor and contributor to Population Geography: A Reader (1970).
— Ronald G. Knapp, SUNY Distinguished Professor Emeritus
Knapp, Ronald G. “George A. Schnell Was Founding Geography Department Chair of SUNY New Paltz.” AAG Newsletter: n. pag. Web. 12 August 2013.