So Long, Old Country Geographer

From Minnesota Alumni Magazine Summer 2015

By Meleah Maynard, Photo by Lisa Miller

John Fraser Hart, the University’s oldest professor, retired in May at the age of 91. Since 1967, shortly after he joined the U, students in Hart’s Geography of the United States and Canada course have been captivated by his extraordinary lectures.

Calling himself “just an old country geographer,” Hart is a firm believer that the best way to learn about geography is to see it. On research trips, he visited all kinds of places, from small farms to big cities, taking pictures and talking with people along the way. Over the years, he turned those photos into more than 40,000 slides, 25,000 of which he used regularly in class while telling stories of what he saw, heard, and experienced. “I can’t take students on a helicopter ride, so I do the job that students can’t do. I go out, take pictures, bring them back and show them what it’s like,” he says.

Though he once told his mother that teaching was the last thing he would ever want to do, Hart recently enthused, “Academia is the best life in the world.” In retirement, he plans to spend more time with his wife, Meredith, and the rest of his family.



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