Howard Critchfield

1920 - 2010

Howard John Critchfield (“Critch”), Professor Emeritus of Geography at Western Washington University, died peacefully at home November 17, age 90. He was born September 24, 1920 in Vernon, Colorado, to Mabel and Owen Critchfield, both schoolteachers. Critchfield graduated high school in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. After completing a two-year teacher’s training course at the Lewiston State Normal School (now Lewis- Clark State College), he taught for a time in a one-room schoolhouse where the pupils called him “Howie.” Critchfield served in the Army Air Corps/Air Force during World War II. He received specialized Arctic and Weather Observation training and was eventually posted to the 16th Weather Squadron in Nome, Alaska. After an Honorable Discharge early in 1946, the GI Bill led to academic successes. Critchfield received a BA in Geography and an MA in Geography and Climatology from the University of Washington. A Carnegie Grant, a Fulbright Award, and grants from the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs enabled him to undertake research in New Zealand from 1948-1950. The University of Washington awarded Critchfield his Doctorate in 1952. His dissertation was The Agricultural Geography of Southland, New Zealand. Critchfield joined the faculty of Western Washington University in 1951. He retired in 1988. During his tenure he served as Chair of the Geography Department, was the official State Climatologist of Washington, through appointment by the Governor, and he pursued his research with travel, sabbaticals, and visiting lectureships and exchanges which took him to New Zealand again and again, as well as to Australia, South Asia, Europe, Japan, India and Nepal, South Africa, Micronesia, and Oman. He authored the acclaimed textbook General Climatology. Long before Wikipedia, Critchfield was well known for his contributions to Encyclopedia Americana and The World Book Encyclopedia. His lifelong enthusiasm for exploring the world and for the exactitude of the natural sciences made him a resourceful guide to students, colleagues, and friends.

Howard Critchfield (Necrology). 2011. AAG Newsletter 46(1): 46.