University News

Geography Professor Emeritus Passes Away

October 6, 2008

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MACOMB, IL - - Ronald E. Nelson, 73, professor emeritus of geography at Western Illinois University, passed away Oct. 5 at his home in Macomb.

He joined the Western Illinois geography department faculty in 1964. Throughout his 31-year tenure, he taught cultural and regional geography and graduate methodology; served as the department's graduate committee chair for several years; and served on many University committees. Prior to coming to Western, Nelson began his teaching career at Morehead State University.

Nelson's professional activities including serving as editor of the Bulletin of the Illinois Geographical Society and the Journal of Geography, and he served on the editorial board of the Journal of Developing Areas. He was the editor of Illinois: Land and Life in the Prairie State and senior author of the textbook "Human Geography: People, Cultures and Landscapes." Nelson served as president of the Illinois Geographical Society, which awarded him the Distinguished Illinois Geographer Award, and he was a member of the executive board of the National Council of Geographic Education. He also taught many Elderhostel and LIFE programs on the role of colonies in the pioneer settlement of west central Illinois, particularly Bishop Hill.

Nelson, who served in the U.S. Army with the Nebraska National Guard, earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and his Ph.D. in geography from the University of Nebraska.

He is survived by his wife, Sandra; three sons, Scott, of Golden (CO), Andy of Normal (IL) and Jeff of Columbus (OH); four grandchildren; stepbrothers, stepsisters and a brother-in-law.

Visitation will be held from 5-7:30 p.m. today (Oct. 6) and from 1:30-2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 7 at Clugston-Tibbitts Funeral Home, 303 E. Washington St., Macomb. A celebration of his life will be held at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at the funeral home. Burial will be in Oakwood Cemetery in Macomb.

Memorials may be made to either the Bishop Hill Heritage Association, WIU geography graduate scholarships or to the McDonough District Hospice Program.

A guestbook is available at

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