Vincent P. Gutowski

1945 - 2015

Vince Gutowski, popular and long-time faculty member at Eastern Illinois University, with diverse interests across applied geography, passed away suddenly on October 5, 2015, aged 70.

Vincent Peter Gutowski was born on February 1, 1945, in Jersey City, NJ. His father, Chester, celebrated the birth of his first son from aboard a ship somewhere in the Pacific where he was on wartime service with the U.S. Coast Guard.

Following the war, the Gutowskis lived in Pittsburgh, PA. Vince graduated from South Catholic High School in 1962 then served in the U.S. Navy. This included time in Panama at Coco Solo, the submarine and naval air base in the Canal Zone. There he met Pamela Maedl, whose father spent most of his career as a high school teacher in the Zone. They married in 1971 in California.

After his military service, Gutowski continued with his education, receiving a B.A. in 1974 and an M.A. in 1977 both from California State University Northridge. He then moved back to his home city for a PhD at the University of Pittsburgh in the Department of Geology and Planetary Science, completing it in 1987.

Much of his early work was on fluvial environments, with publications on topics including stream terraces, riverbank erosion, depositional zones, riverside land use, urban water consumption, and changing urban waterfronts.

Gutowski joined the Department of Geology and Geography at Eastern Illinois University (EIU) in 1983 where he stayed until retirement in 2010. He had a broad spectrum of research and teaching interests including geomorphology, environmental studies, field methods, cartography and applied geography.

The university’s geography major was withdrawn just after his arrival at EIU but Gutowski was credited with its revival into a thriving and growing program. He was a committed teacher, following the example of his own teachers in encouraging his students to do more than just take classes. He made his students aware of their importance and thrived on guiding those who had a zeal for learning. He encouraged students to do research; in fact all of his own research projects had student involvement. His appreciation for student scholarship at the undergraduate level allowed him to successfully steer many into graduate school and he was instrumental in helping his students receive scholarships.

Gutowski led students on field trips throughout the United States, including the southern Appalachians, the Coastal Plain and the Southwest. He also demonstrated the importance of balancing studies with social gatherings, frequently hosting students at his home. Many former students will remember Gutowski as their friend, confidant and greatest advocate, while approaching his duties in a laid-back, yet academically-responsible manner.

As GIS emerged as a geographic tool, he embraced it for his continuing interests in fluvial geomorphology and paleogeography. In the latter field of scholarship, he spent over a decade on field-based investigations – digging through layers of soil, and sorting through seeds and snail shells – to construct a portrait of the climate and ecology of eastern Illinois 20,000 years ago.

He was also involved in a number of projects for local governments in Illinois – Charleston, Coles County and Decatur – applying GIS for regional planning, infrastructure mapping, and water resource management.

He was deeply committed to local environmental issues, including serving on the Embarras River Management Association’s board of directors and as chair of the council of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Conservation 2000 Program.

Gutowski became a member of the AAG in 1978. He regularly attended the Annual Meeting and was actively involved in the West Lakes Regional Division, as well as a number of Specialty Groups.

During his career at EIU, Gutowski received numerous university awards for his teaching, research and service, including the Luis Clay Mendez Distinguished Service Award in 2008 for his outstanding dedication to the university, his profession, and the community-at-large. On receipt of awards, Gutowski always credited those who had mentored him. A hallmark of his scholarly work, publications and consultancy projects was collaboration, testament to his inclusive approach.

Gutowski generously used personal funds made via his consulting work to buy equipment for student use in EIU laboratories. He and his wife also established the Vincent P. and Pamela R. Gutowski Fund to support students majoring in geography who show outstanding scholarship and dedication.

After retirement, Gutowski remained active in the department at EIU and in the community, including a project to locate and map a lost cemetery. In 1922, non-union miners were killed during the famous Herrin Massacre in Southern Illinois. Gutowski, along with his long-term collaborator Steve Di Naso, and a research team used a variety of geospatial techniques along with detective work to uncover the victims who had been buried in an unmarked potter’s field thereby helping to bring closure to a divisive chapter in the community’s history. Their accomplishments were recognized with a Superior Achievement Award from the Illinois State Historical Society.

He also spent time in retirement playing golf and on the family property along Kickapoo Creek, planting and tending to thousands of trees.

Vince Gutowski was highly respected and regarded by his colleagues and students alike. Fellow EUI geographer, Godson Obia, described him as “a stellar academic and a great person,” remarking on how much he gave to his students and department. He will also be greatly missed by his family. He predeceased his siblings – two brothers and a sister – and also leaves behind Pam, his loving wife of 44 years, their three children, Jennifer, Carl and Frank, and four grandchildren.