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A tribute to Roger Tomlinson (Nov. 17, 1933 to Feb. 9, 2014)

Roger Tomlinson once referred to a crowd of geography experts as “my grandchildren.” Although it was made tongue in cheek, the comment was not unwarranted. The death of Tomlinson, an RCGS Fellow often called the “Father of GIS,” has left many within the geographic community feeling like they’ve lost a family member.

I first met Roger in 1991 at the Canadian Association of Geographers meeting at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. He was receiving an award for service to geography, and his words on the importance of working together across geography disciplines echoed in my head. When years later I accepted my own award, he told me, “Now you have to use this and do more, and figure out how to give back to the community.”

He inspired me to see what could be done — what I first thought impossible — but what the geomatics and geography community needed.

Geography has lost a leader and an example to us all. A man who helped me understand the value of geographic education. It is hard to find a better example of a Fellow of the RCGS. The Society, Canada and the world of geography will always be so much better because of him.

When Roger was acknowledged as a previous Gold Medal recipient at the RCGS’s annual College of Fellows dinner in November 2013, the audience clapped heartily. Had we known he would not be with us much longer, I think the ovation would have lasted much longer and echoed far beyond Ottawa.

— James Boxall

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