Andrew Hill Clark Prize
The most outstanding graduating senior/s Geography Major is eligible to receive the Andrew Hill Clark Prize in Geography.
2021: Francis Caceres, Francis Silvestrini, Bridget van Voorst
Andrew Hill Clark’s Contributions to Geography at Rutgers University
(prepared by James K. Mitchell, Emeritus Professor, April 4, 2021)
“Andy” Clark founded the present Rutgers University Department of Geography in 1949 and initiated a broad departmental interest in the human dimensions of the physical environment that endures to this day. Born (1911) to medical missionary parents on an Indian Reservation in Manitoba, Canada, he developed environmental sensibilities on the Prairies before moving to Toronto and studying Canadian history. He then went on to receive a Geography Ph.D. from the University of California-Berkeley under the tutelage of Carl Sauer, one of North American Geography’s early foundational figures.
A two-year stint in New Zealand, where the landscape was deeply inscribed by human activities, was the basis for Clark’s 1944 doctoral dissertation. Like his earlier investigations of Maritime Canada1, it instilled in him a preference for historically grounded research that involved deep immersion in specific places and relied heavily on empirical field evidence as well as archival material. As with many geographers of the era, Clark’s life and professional contributions were also significantly affected by experiences gathering and interpreting information pertinent to World War II. He and his wife were marooned in Auckland, New Zealand by the start of war in the Pacific and were preparing to be Red Cross volunteers there when they, unexpectedly, found passage on a ship carrying wounded American soldiers, that ran the harrowing gauntlet of a lone unescorted voyage to San Francisco. Later, during the years from 1944-1946, he worked in China and India for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), forerunner of today’s CIA. Among other things he interviewed Chinese Communist leader Chou En-Lai (Zhou Enlai) on several occasions and witnessed, at first hand, the Party’s rise to power.
When he arrived at Rutgers in 1946 Andy held an Associate Professorship in the Department of Geology but felt the need for a separate unit that would put humans at the center of environmental change research. At the time of his promotion to Full Professor in 1949 he had persuaded the University to set up a new Geography Department, the inaugural address2 for which was written by Isaiah Bowman, Director of the American Geographical Society, President of Johns Hopkins University, and an adviser to President Woodrow Wilson who also had a significant hand in shaping American foreign policy through his close association with Franklin D. Roosevelt. (Bowman was later to become the subject of a critical book3 written by a more recent Rutgers-based geographer, Neil Smith).
Although Clark’s stay at Rutgers lasted only 5 years (1946-1951) they were highly productive of papers that focused mainly on Canadian and New Zealand geography. During this period his landmark doctoral dissertation was published by Rutgers University Press under the title The Invasion of New Zealand by People, Plants and Animals: The South Island (1949). (It was while reading that volume in the Geography Library at Queens University Belfast that I was initially attracted to this theme for my own studies.) By the time he left, for the University of Wisconsin-Madison – where he would go on to establish a “school” of historical geography and mentor an outstanding generation of graduates – the Rutgers Department of Geography was firmly in being with four faculty, including Guido Weigend and John Brush who would consolidate Clark’s foundation and guide the next phase of the department’s growth.
Andy remained at Madison for the rest of his academic life, becoming President of the Association of American Geographers, receiving many honors from the United States and abroad, and a revered figure in the discipline. He died in 1975 at the age of 64. The Andrew Hill Clark prize is a testament to his role in the Rutgers Department of Geography’s history.
Further details about Andrew Clark’s life and work can be found in:
Michael Roche. 2013. “A.H. Clark’s framing of Geographical Change,” Historical Geography 41 < https://ejournals.unm.edu/index.php/historicalgeography/article/view/3068/html_12>
David Ward and Michael Solot. 1992 “Andrew Hill Clark 1911-1975,” in Geographers Biobibliographical Essays, Vol. 14, ed. Geoffrey Martin (London: Mansell), 13–26.
Donald W. Meinig. 1978. “Prologue: Andrew Hill Clark, historical geographer,” in European Settlement and Development in North America, ed. James R. Gibson (Folkestone: Dawson), 3–26.
David Ward. 1977. “Andrew Hill Clark, 1911-1975,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 67 (1): 145-148. < https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-8306.1977.tb01125.x>
1: Later published as Three Centuries and the island: A historical geography of settlement and agriculture in Prince Edward Island, Canada (University of Toronto Press, 1959)
2: “Geographical Interpretation,” an inaugural address April 6, 1949. Reprinted in Geographical Review 39 (3): 355-370.
3: American Empire: Roosevelt’s Geographer and the Prelude to Globalization. (University of California Press, 2003).