William A. Dando

1934 - 2021

William A. Dando, Distinguished Professor of Geography and professor emeritus at Indiana State University, passed away on January 1, 2021, at the age of 86, after a brief illness. Throughout his life, he was an exemplar of a balanced academic life, excelling at research and teaching while also serving his communities: a true “gentleman” of geography.

William Arthur Dando was born in Newell, Pennsylvania on June 13, 1934 and grew up exploring the surrounding hills and valleys. He served in the Air Force from 1954-6, including a stint in Iceland. Under the G.I. Bill, Dando attended California University (PA), just across the river from Newell, earning his B.S in Geography and Mathematics in 1959. He received his M.S. in 1962 and Ph.D. in 1969 from the University of Minnesota, working with John Borchert. His dissertation was entitled “Grain or Dust; A Study of the Soviet New Lands Program 1954-1963.” This work began a lifelong interest in food production and Soviet agriculture.

Dando’s first teaching position was at the University of Maryland. In 1970, he received a Danforth Associateship, “awarded in recognition of good teaching and in humanizing the education process.” In 1972, he was awarded a Fulbright-Hays Postdoctoral Research Grant to study Romanian agriculture, becoming one of the first Americans to spend time on a communist collective farm.

Beginning in the early 1970s, he started leading geography field courses to the Soviet Union, allowing him to gather data behind the Iron Curtain while giving hundreds of students memorable field experiences. In addition to university students, he also took teachers and farmers on educational trips to the Soviet Union, making over twenty trips.

In 1975, Dando accepted a position at the Geography Department at the University of North Dakota, becoming chair of the program.

In 1980, Dando published The Geography of Famine (1980) which received international acclaim. In 1982, he contributed a chapter on “Man Made Famines” to Famine: Its Causes, Effects and Management which was recognized with the World Hunger Media Award by the United Nations.

Dando spent the 1981-82 academic year as a Senior Scholar at Chung Chi College of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Dando moved to Terre Haute in 1989 where he was the chair of the Department of Geography, Geology, and Anthropology at Indiana State University until his retirement in 2002. After retirement, he founded the “Senior Scholars Academy” at ISU, a pre- and post-retirement think-tank for retired faculty members dedicated to regional enhancement and community revitalization.

Throughout his years at the Universities of Maryland and North Dakota and then at Indiana State University he taught undergraduate and graduate classes, mentoring students of all levels as well as faculty. Michael DeMers, a beloved student and friend, dedicated his first book to Dando, writing: “I offer this work first to William A. Dando, who put my feet on the path of geographical knowledge and who has been an unwavering supporter of my work. He not only shared his knowledge and skills with me but, more importantly, he shared his time, his family and, above all, his love. No student ever received so much from an advisor. His has been the pattern that I have tried to emulate” (Fundamentals of Geographic Information Systems, 1997).

Dando was a prolific researcher and author, publishing over 29 books and monographs, 79 articles, book chapters, and encyclopedia entries, and two atlases. A scholar to the end, he continued to publish books and articles after his retirement, including Food and Famine in the 21st Century (2012) and Geography of the Holy Land: Jerusalem, Regional Cities, Small Towns, and Rural Places (2020). He had a knack for grant-writing and had numerous grants over his academic career, adding up to millions of dollars in funded research.

He received numerous awards for teaching, research and service from a variety of institutions and organizations, including from the University of Maryland, University of North Dakota, Indiana State University, the NCGE, the West Lakes Division of the AAG, and from the AAG.

At all the universities he worked at, Dando was active on campus, serving on university committees. He also gave numerous presentations to local organizations and advised various state offices on geography-related topics, including at one point the governor of North Dakota.

He worked with teachers to help improve the teaching of geography in schools in Maryland, North Dakota, and Indiana. His contributions to geographic education were recognized by awards from the Geographic Educators of Indiana, the National Council for Geographic Education, and the AAG.

Dando was a member of the AAG 60 years. He served the AAG in a variety of capacities: vice-chairman (1971) and chairman (1973-4) of the Middle Atlantic Division; as treasurer (1977-8) and chairperson (1978-9) for the Great Plains-Rocky Mountain Division; as a chairperson (1994-5) and regional councilor (1997-2000) for the West Lakes Division; on the AAG Proposal Writing Committee 1990-3; and chairperson of the Bible Specialty Group (1993-2021).

Former Executive Director of the AAG, Doug Richardson, a long-term friend of Bill Dando, noted that “Bill’s curiosity, energy, and wide-ranging scholarship, coupled with a deep commitment to his students, have made significant and enduring contributions to the discipline of geography. His big heart and his expansive vision will be missed by all.”

His deep interest in food and famine issues was not just academic. He was an active member of Centenary United Methodist Church of Terre Haute and he and wife Caroline worked its monthly “Fourth Monday” luncheon, a free meal to whoever needs it, just two days before his passing.

He leaves behind his wife and co-writer/editor Caroline Z. Dando; children Christina, Lara, and Bill (all geographers); four grandchildren — Emmaline, Anna, Alex, and John; and thousands of former students and mentees.