Lawrence Estaville

It is with a heavy heart that I write to inform each of you that Dr. Lawrence Estaville, founding member of the Ethnic Geography Specialty Group, had died.

Lawrence served in the academy as a professor, scholar, and administrator for more than 40 years with positions in Wisconsin, California, South Carolina, and Texas. During his career, Lawrence was a prolific scholar, steadfast mentor and educator, and an effective administrator. While in no way inclusive, I would like to highlight some of Lawrence’s many accomplishments during his unparalleled career and life. Lawrence led the establishment of three PhD programs at Texas State University and aided in the founding of the James and Marilyn Lovell Center for Environmental Geography and Hazards Research and the Gilbert M. Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education. He published 10 books (with an additional co-authored monograph forthcoming), 36 peer-reviewed articles, 19 peer-reviewed book chapters, and presented 92 conference papers. An effective fundraiser, Lawrence raised over $6-million in grants and raised funds to support graduate students and conferences. He worked closely with the Race, Ethnicity, and Place Conferences and with the conference creator and his dear friend Dr. John Frazier.

Above all, Lawrence would tell you that his passion was teaching. He taught nearly 40 courses during his career and was a steadfast advocate for students. Diversity of students and ideas was a cornerstone of his teaching. Lawrence’s love of cinema led him to include assignments involving important films in several of his undergraduate courses. He was often recognized as a favorite professor by both undergraduate and graduate students. He advised three doctoral students and several masters students to the successful completion of their degrees. As one of those doctoral students, I will share that Lawrence’s mentorship did not end at the culmination of my graduate degree but rather turned into a life-long duty for him.

Lawrence was an award-winning professor with recognition at the highest level. I highlight a few here. Lawrence was a recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award in 1985 and the Distinguished Mentor Award in 2012 from the National Council for Geographic Education. He was honored in 2011 with the Outstanding Scholarship and Service Award from the Business Geography Specialty Group – a group that he led in establishing. From our Ethnic Geography Specialty Group, Lawrence was the recipient of the Distinguished Scholar Award in 2015 and the Distinguished Ethnic Geographer Career Award in 2010. He received the Enhancing Diversity Award from the American Association of Geographers in 2016. Most recently, on November 16, 2018, Lawrence was the recipient of the highest faculty honor and title bestowed by the Texas State University System – Regents’ Professor.

I will add that one of the things that Lawrence was most proud of, especially toward the end of his career, was his service to the National Marrow Donor Program and his establishment (with Yvonne Ybarra and Angelika Wahl) of the Texas State Cancer Advocacy Movement for Colleges and Outreach (CAMCO). The efforts of this state-wide alliance resulted in tens of thousands of student marrow donors and, most importantly, the saving of over 50 lives through marrow matches – including several children. He shared privately with me years ago, after his successful fight with leukemia, that he felt that he just had to do something if he “beat this thing,” especially after seeing what he saw at M.D. Anderson. He did.

These few paragraphs only scratch the surface of Lawrence Estaville’s vast career accomplishments. Lawrence was very private about his valiant fights with cancer.

On Wednesday, December 5, 2018, Lawrence was honored with a Texas State University presidential reception for his Regents’ Professor distinction in San Marcos, Texas. Although he was a little thinner and in a wheel chair, Lawrence was vibrant and excited to speak to all who came to congratulate him. His contagious, deep laughter could be heard throughout the room as he reminisced and joked with friends and colleagues. I remember that he displayed his Regents’ Professor medallion proudly over his suit jacket adjusting it for pictures. He would later tell me that he was so very thankful for the experience and for all his friends near and far. He said that the award was “the cherry on top” of what he said was a great life and career.

I visited him again a few days later in his home. Lawrence, in characteristic fashion, wanted to talk more about me, my family, and our friends than himself. Always the hosts, the Estaville’s had refreshments out for me. When I commented on not needing to have refreshments out he said, “Oh Edris, that is my beautiful wife Sandra who put those out.” I said, “You are one lucky man.” He replied, “You’re telling me.”  Lawrence’s deepest love and admiration for his wife, Sandra, remains an example to us all.

A professor and educator until the end, Lawrence was afraid that he would not be able to complete his Ethnic Geography course this semester and see his students’ presentations. Angelika Wahl, his dear friend and colleague from the department at Texas State suggested that he could Skype-in to see and grade the final presentations which excited Lawrence greatly. With the assistance of Yongmei Lu, TX State Geography Department Chair and cherished friend, Lawrence was able to finish his course this semester – a duty he would tell me that he felt he owed his students… to finish what he started. He was very thankful for that.

In one of our conversations, Lawrence did lament that there would be many that he would not be able to say goodbye to personally and he hoped that everyone understood. I, of course, reassured him that all would. He shared with me that he felt that he had lived a wonderful life and was thankful for every moment of it.

Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.), professor, scholar, mentor, colleague, and friend Dr. Lawrence Estaville passed away on the morning of December 20, 2018 with his loving wife Sandra by his side. He was 74 years old. Lawrence is survived by his wife Sandra and his daughter Deborah. He is survived by dozens of colleagues and friends who he collaborated with over his long career. Finally, Dr. Lawrence Estaville is survived by thousands of students who are better for their time spent with him – in the classroom and beyond.

Per Lawrence’s wishes, there will not be a funeral. The family has asked in lieu of flowers, to consider contributing to the many scholarships he supported/funded at Texas State (geography specific scholarship information: or to the Be the Match Foundation ( Those who wish may also consider donating to the EGSG’s newly established student travel fund in Lawrence’s memory (If you wish to donate to the EGSG student travel fund please contact me at

As we take the time to remember Lawrence in the next few months and at the AAG meeting in Washington D.C., I know that our friend and colleague wouldn’t want us to spend too long mourning him. Instead, I believe that Lawrence would want us to continue to educate and serve students and each other to the best of our ability. He did.

— Edris J. Montalvo Jr., Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Geography

Department of Social Sciences

Cameron University