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Geography and Environmental Studies
Laurier mourns the passing of Dr. John McMurry
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Former Laurier geography professor Dr. John McMurry passed away Feb. 5, 2010 after suffering a fall that led to heart failure. He was 89.
Dr. McMurry was considered one of Wilfrid Laurier University’s most celebrated geography professors.
Born and educated in Michigan, Dr. McMurry began his career at Michigan State University in 1947, before moving to Florida State University, where he taught from 1949 to 1962.
He joined Laurier (then Waterloo Lutheran University) in 1962 as the founding chair of the Department of Geography and Geology. Dr. McMurry was instrumental in establishing the graduate program in geography in 1965. In 1973, he successfully transitioned the Geography and Geology department at Waterloo Lutheran to establish the Department of Geography at Wilfrid Laurier University.
Dr. McMurry was credited with introducing resource management studies to geography at Laurier, which integrated the study of the physical environment with human activities. He made sustainable development the focus of geographical studies long before it became the buzzword it is today.
Dr. McMurry retired from Laurier in 1986.
In September 2009, Wilfrid Laurier University received an anonymous $2.5-million donation to establish the Dr. John McMurry Research Chair in Environmental Geography. Dr. Scott Slocombe was named the inaugural chairholder.
In an article last fall announcing the research chair, Laurier’s director of residential services Mike Belanger, a former student of Dr. McMurry’s, shared his thoughts on the professor.
“McMurry was a fascinating professor and incredibly knowledgeable,” says Belanger. “He always came to class with a bundle of papers, no notes and spoke freely. For one class our textbook was The Globe and Mail newspaper.”
Belanger says Dr. McMurry found grading a ‘necessary evil.’ “He was more concerned about teaching and provoking thought and making students consider the impact they had on the environment.”
Among other awards, Dr. McMurry won the Wilfrid Laurier University Teaching Award in 1974.
He leaves behind his wife, Mary, and sons Charles, James, Andrew and Cameron and their families. There are no immediate plans for a memorial service.