- Letter to the Editor
In regards to: "The Department of Geography at the University of California, Santa Barbara: History, Curriculum and Pedagogy," by Keith C. Clarke and Susanna R. Baumgart, Yearbook Vol. 66, 2004, pp. 95–113.
The above-cited article about the establishment of the Department of Geography at UCSB was very informative. But I wish to comment on the earlier history of geography at UCSB, when there was a desire on the part of the administration to found a department on the lines of the successful Berkeley and UCLA models. I joined the UCLA geography department in 1957 and from that time onward I frequently visited the then new UCSB campus, at Isla Vista, where my oldest daughter was an undergraduate student. This was before any member now on the present faculty of the UCSB Geography Department had been recruited for that campus.
As is pointed out in the article cited above, a number of untenured, junior faculty members were teaching geography at UCSB, without any expectation of receiving permanent appointments. Senior scholars in other fields at UCSB commented to me about the unfairness of this, which would only be corrected by the establishment of a geography department, rather than the program then in place. Among the untenured geography faculty members at UCSB was John "Jack" Estes, who had taken a Ph.D. in geography at UCLA for which I was the committee chair. Jack's dissertation was titled Geographic Applications of Multi-Image Correlation Remote Sensing Techniques (UCLA, 1969).
During the course of his research for this study I encouraged Jack to take an internship under David Simonett, who was then teaching courses in remote sensing at the University of Kansas. Shortly after this Simonett returned to his native Australia, but soon found that research opportunities in fields of interest to him were limited there. [End Page 117]
Meanwhile a number of senior geographers, including three from UCLA, were approached by the UCSB administration about being the founding chair of the proposed department of geography at UCSB. At this time Jack Estes had the third largest amount of extramural grant money of any faculty member at UCSB, while still an untenured Assistant Professor. Administrators are reluctant to discharge faculty who have major outside funding. So, when others were terminated, Jack was worth retaining for this, and more legitimate reasons. Among these was that Jack had established a professional relationship with Profesor Robert Colwell at UC Berkeley, the most visible academic remote sensing specialist in the U.S. at the time, and published with him.
Prompted by Jack, with whom he had good associations at Kansas, when the administration at UCSB offered the founding chairmanship of geography to David Simonett he accepted. Arguably this would not have happened in the way that it did had not Jack Estes, remarkably, "survived" at UCSB. I am very proud of Jack, my first Ph.D. student, who was always greatly appreciative of the training and support he had received at UCLA, and elsewhere. Thank you.
Norman J.W. Thrower
Professor Emeritus, UCLA