Stanley W. Toops
1957 - 2023
With heavy hearts we mourn our dear friend and colleague Stanley Toops, who passed away yesterday of a failing heart. We’re proud Stan called Miami home for 32 years, but he was a man of the world — a quintessential geographer — whose curiosity knew no bounds. He visited so many places and touched so many people through his teaching, research, mentorship, and friendship. We highlight some accomplishments and memories below.
Stan was a Midwesterner, born and bred, from Milton, Iowa. He attended Drake University, earning a B.A. in Geography and Political Science in 1979, and later an Advanced Chinese Certificate from Middlebury College in 1982. Stan went west for his graduate work in Geography at the University of Washington, earning an M.A. in 1983 and Ph.D. in 1990 (with a dissertation “The Tourism and Handicraft Industries of Xinjiang: Development and Ethnicity in a Minority Periphery”). Through his education and research, he became fluent in Chinese and knowledgeable of Uyghur, but could greet you in a variety of other languages.
Stan joined Miami that same year with a joint appointment in the Department of Geography and International Studies. For 32 years he shared his insights and experiences with thousands of students in classes on world regional geography, geography of East Asia, introductory and capstone international studies courses, and more. He enlivened the classroom with anecdotes from his travels, and sometimes with song (a capella renditions of national anthems). He supervised many graduate students, encouraging bold topics and field research across the globe. Former students attest to his depth of knowledge, infectious passion for learning, and encouraging them to critically engage with the world. Colleagues likewise appreciated his dedication to and impact on curricula in Geography and International Studies. Education at Miami will never be the same without him, but so many have been touched by his gifts as a teacher.
Stan was an innovative and productive researcher. He was a classic area studies geographer, focused on East and Central Asia, and particularly China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. His research in geography and international studies exploring the interplay of culture and development earned him diverse publications (and a travel ban by the Chinese government, a badge of honor if there ever was one). He remained an active researcher across his career, with scores of articles, chapters, and books to his credit. Notably, he was a key contributor to the Routledge Atlas of Central Eurasian Affairs (2012) and lead editor of the International Studies: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Global Issues (now in its fifth edition, 2022). His geographical perspective lent important value to diverse conversations spanning borders and disciplinary boundaries. Stan left an important and lasting mark as a scholar.
All of these contributions earned him tenure and promotion in 1996 and the esteem of colleagues across campus, and a much celebrated and well-earned retirement in 2022. Stan moved back west to enjoy retirement at a new home in Federal Way, Washington (with Mt. Rainier on the horizon), but kept in touch with Oxford friends.
But we’ll remember Stan especially as a wonderful colleague and friend. He was incredibly smart, but also profoundly modest and personally warm. He was a regular presence around Shideler Hall, often found in his office surrounded by a towering mess of books and mementos. He spoke gently, but his tenor singing voice carried across the halls. Each day he sported a different, place-themed T-shirt or necktie, many of which he shared with us upon retirement. And in an increasingly busy and distracted campus, Stan took the time for careful and thoughtful conversation with undergraduates, graduate students, and his colleagues. They don’t make colleagues like Stan every day, and his loss leaves a big hole in Shideler Hall and our hearts.
We offer our sincerest condolences to his wife Simone Andrus, their much-loved dog Egg, and Stan’s extensive family and network of friends and collaborators in Iowa, Ohio, Washington, and across the globe. We feel his loss acutely but are thankful for his many years of collegiality and friendship, and proud of his deep contributions to Miami University, Geography (in Oxford and beyond), and everyone who knew him.
Stan’s life was cut far too short, but he lived it very fully. As a quintessential geographer would.
Provided by Marcia England and the Miami University geography department.