Obituary: Donald W. Meinig, 1924-2020

25 Oct 2020 2:30 AM | Christine R Henry

republished from the Jewish Federation of Central New York:

Donald William Meinig, Ph.D., professor, author, husband, father and grandfather, passed away Saturday, June 13, in Syracuse. He was 95. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 64 years, Lee. Don was known as a gentleman scholar, dignified friend and community leader and supporter.

Meinig was Professor Emeritus, Geography and the Environment and Maxwell Research Professor of Geography at Syracuse University. His research included historical, regional and cultural geography as well as landscape interpretation. His most ambitious and well-known work is the four-volume series The Shaping of America (published 1986, 1993, 1998, and 2004). He also concentrated on literary spaces and geography, stating, "Literature is a valuable storehouse of vivid depictions of the landscapes and lives of modern-day society." Upon publication of volume four of The Shaping of America, Meinig was presented with the Presidential Achievement Award by the Association of American Geographers, its highest award, as well as the J.B. Jackson Prize for the best book interpreting the geography of America. 

Professor Meinig was a Fulbright Scholar, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities. He was the first American geographer to be elected as a corresponding Fellow of the British Academy, in 1991. In 1965, the Association of American Geographers awarded him a citation "For Meritorious Contribution to the Field of Geography," and the American Geographical Society gave him their Charles P. Daly Medal in 1986. Meinig received an honorary doctorate (D.H.L.) from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University in 1994. The Geographical Review devoted a special issue to him in July 2009. In 2010, he was elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Raised on a farm in Palouse, Washington, Meinig enlisted in the Army in 1943 and served stateside as a 2nd lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers until his honorable discharge in 1946. He received his bachelor's degree at Georgetown University and earned graduate degrees in geography from the University of Washington in 1950 and 1953. Starting in 1950, Meinig held a faculty position at the University of Utah. In 1958 he left Utah for a visiting position at the University of Adelaide in Australia under a Fulbright scholarship and in 1959 he joined the Syracuse faculty. He was chairman of the geography department at Syracuse from 1968 to 1973. Don lectured at universities around the world and he and Lee traveled widely, living briefly in Australia, Scotland and Israel. 

In 1992, Meinig gave the Charles Homer Haskins Prize Lecture, titled "A Life in Learning," saying, "It has been such a richly satisfying thing that when I reflect upon my life. It seems as if from the moment I first looked out in wonder across the hills of Palouse I have lived happily ever after."

He was loved and admired by many. Together he and Lee raised three daughters -Laurel Meinig Brewster, Kristin Cominsky and Lee Meinig. Other family members include his sons-in-law, Bob Brewster, Sidney Cominsky and John Tate; grandchildren Anna Cominsky Gatesy and her husband Sean; Elise Cominsky, Noah Cominsky, Maria Tate, and Carmen Tate and great-grandchildren Jordan Gatesy, Cameron Gatesy, and Matthew Herrera.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, a funeral will be held in Syracuse at a date to be determined. Memorial contributions may be made to a local food bank.

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