Stephen White

1947 - 2015

Stephen White

Steve White, former Head of the Geography Department at Kansas State University, passed away on March 21, 2015, aged 67.

Stephen E. White was born on April 15, 1947, in Frankfort, Kentucky. His academic studies were all at the University of Kentucky, where he gained a bachelor’s degree in 1969, a master’s degree in 1972 and a doctorate in 1974.

He spent his career at Kansas State University rising up the ranks as Assistant Professor (1975-1980), Associate Professor (1980-1985) and Professor (from 1985).

White taught courses on world regional geography, world population patterns, geography of the United States, human geography, and perception of the environment.

He was recognized for his excellence as a teacher. Kansas State University awarded him the Conoco Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award in 1988 and the William L. Stamey teaching award in 1989. In 1991, the National Council for Geographic Education bestowed on him the Distinguished Teaching Achievement Award for Excellence in Geography.

Broadly, his research interests were human-environment interactions, population and health geographies, and rural and regional geography all with particular reference to Southwestern Kansas, the Great Plains and Appalachia. Among the focuses of his research was the issue of water, particular in the High Plains region; he researched and wrote about water use and irrigation, groundwater depletion, water management and policy, and water rights.

In all, White authored or co-authored over 75 articles and book chapters, one of which was awarded the Journal of Geography Award for Best Content Article in 1987. Among his many interesting publications were his 1994 paper in the Annals of the AAG entitled “Ogallala Oases: Water Use, Population Redistribution, and Policy Implications in the High Plains of Western Kansas, 1980-1990” and his 1998 paper in Rural Sociology on “Migration Trends in the Kansas Ogallala Region and the Internal Colonial Dependency Model.” He also co-authored the population geography chapter in the first volume of Geography in America edited by Gary Galle and Cort Willimott (1989).

At Kansas State, White served as Head of the Geography Department from 1979 to 1987 and again from 1994 to 1998. Following his second stint at the helm of the geography department, he joined the institutional management as Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (1997-2002). Following the departure of the incumbent Dean, he became Interim Dean before being appointed fully to the position in 2003.

White became a member of the Association of American Geographers in 1972. He was designated as an AAG Outstanding Teacher-Scholar from 1995 to 2000 and served as the AAG delegate to the American Council of Learned Societies. He also had a stint as President of the Population Specialty Group and was awarded the Contemporary Agriculture and Rural Land Use Specialty Group John Fraser Hart Award for Research Excellence in 2001.

White was also a member of the National Council for Geographic Education and served on their Teaching Awards Task Force and Journal of Geography Awards Task Force.

Aside from his recognition for teaching and research, the award he was most proud of was the Manhattan Parks and Recreation Department 1988 Youth Baseball Coach of the Year for Cookie League.

Steve is survived by wife, Susan; sons, Eric and Ben; and grandchildren, Jaden, Ellie, Dominic and Mattie; as well as his mother and stepfather, Doris and R.L. Marshall; and his three brothers and their families.

There will be a memorial session commemorating Steve’s life and academic contributions at the AAG’s Annual Meeting in San Francisco in 2016. Please contact Max Lu at to participate in planning.