Geography Does Homecoming in Grand Manner

Geography faculty, alumni and students celebrate at the homecoming tailgate party.

Lots of events and activities for students and alumni

Geography was at its prime over Homecoming weekend, with tons of events and activities, including the Homecoming Tailgate Party, the Jesse H. Wheeler Jr. Library Dedication, the Dakota A. Ioanis Memorial Tree Dedication, the Geography Book and Map Sale, and the MU Geography Alumni Roundtable.

Homecoming Tailgate Party

A tradition for the department, the Homecoming Tailgate Party is always held the morning or afternoon before Homecoming game at Tiger Terrace just outside Memorial Student Union.

This year, alumni, students, and faculty showed to feast on brats and burgers, watch the geography’s own faculty “dad” band, The Urban Coyotes, and celebrate the return of “normalcy” and alumni. There were about 60 people who showed to the event, which was held from noon to 2 p.m. on Oct. 9. About 10 of those were alums from places like Minnesota and Ohio, as well as Missouri.

Mike Urban, department chair, was on the grill while the band played songs, such as “Take it Easy,” “Friend of the Devil,” “Yer So Bad,” “Stuck in the Middle,” “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” “Taking Care of Business,” “Bad Moon Rising,” “Simple Man” and others.

The band was composed of Grad Student John Thomas (drums), Claire Blodgett (bass), and faculty members Clayton Blodgett (guitar), Soren Larsen (guitar), Grant Elliott (guitar) and Mark Palmer (guitar and bass). Elliott, Larsen, Blodgett (Clayton) and Thomas also sang.

“It was a successful Homecoming Tailgate for sure,” says Larsen. “We had another wonderful homecoming celebration with lots of our alums welcomed back to campus.”

Soren Larsen, professor of geography, hangs plaque during the Jesse H. Wheeler Jr. Library Dedication

Jesse H. Wheeler Jr. Library Dedication

A long time in planning, the Jesse H. Wheeler Jr. Library Dedication, named after the former chair who served the department from 1940 until he retired in 1988, finally came to fruition with about 15 students in attendance.

The dedication, held at 3 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 8, included hanging a plaque in his honor on the door and restoring the library to its rightful name, says Larsen. About four faculty were also in attendance.

“I contacted one of his family members who lives in Ohio, and he was really glad we were doing this,” adds Larsen. “He thought it was great. It was in honor of Dr. Wheeler and his geographical spirit, which still lives in this building.”

Wheeler died on Friday, July 8, 1994, at University Hospital and Clinics. He received a bachelor’s and master’s degree in English from Auburn University in Alabama, and a doctoral degree in geography from the University of Chicago in 1950.

He served as department chair for 12 years and was the senior co-author of many editions of the most widely used college textbook on World Regional Geography, says Larsen.

The seminar room was officially dedicated as the Jesse H. Wheeler Library after his retirement. But the renovation of Stewart Hall in 2017, resulted in the seminar room being moved to an unnamed library in Stewart 217.

“As before, it has become a cherished space for students to study and think,” says Larsen. “And it continues to host seminar discussions and collaborative workshops – something I have a feeling Dr. Wheeler would be pleased to see.”

Family,, friends and faculty/students gathered Homecoming weekend for the Dakota A. Ioanis Memorial Tree Dedication.

Dakota A. Ioanis Memorial Tree Dedication

In memory of former Grad Student Dakota A. Ioanis, who died shortly after finishing his semester in May 2021, a tree was dedicated in his name between Stewart Hall and Memorial Union, both places with significant meaning to the teaching assistant in Regions and Nations.

About 30 people attended the dedication, held Oct. 8 at 4 p.m. followed by a cheese and cracker reception in Stewart 216 with his family – including his mother, father, wife, and other family members.

“We all first met Dakota when he entered the graduate program in the Fall of 2020,” says Larsen. “But he had known about MU Geography for a long time.”

When Ioanis was a 5th grader in 2002, he participated in the Missouri State Geographic Bee on campus in Memorial Union. He was in awe of the campus, the flowers about to bloom, and former chair Kit Salter who came equipped with a National Geographic magazine featuring the department.

That experience led to his attending Mizzou in adulthood.

“With a master’s in education already in hand, plus several years of teaching experience in the Calhoun School District, Dakota fell into his role naturally,” says Larsen. “And while the pandemic made it difficult for graduate students and faculty to get to know one another, we definitely got to know Dakota. With a passion for geography and his State of Missouri, a diehard Royals and Chiefs fan, a lover of road trips and an expert of vexillology (the study of flags), Dakota was a geographer’s geographer.”

Students gather in Stewart Hall from the Geography Book and Map Pre-Sale on the Friday before Homecoming game.

Geography Book and Map Sale

The Geography Book and Map Sale, which raised money for undergrad and graduate social events throughout the year, came as a result of the generosity of Kit Salter, former department chair, and Joe Hobbs, professor emeritus, who each donated a substantial portion of their private libraries to the department to benefit the students in geography.

“We had a little of everything,” says director of undergraduate studies, Doug Hurt. “We had a lot of books on China, Dr. Salter’s big interest. We had literature. Quite a few books on the Middle East, which Dr. Hobbs gave us. We had books on cultural geography as well. But the big sellers were wall maps. Those really went like crazy.”

Maps sold for $5 each, hardbacks $1 each, and paperbacks 50 cents apiece. The event, held during Homecoming celebrations on Saturday, also included a presell on Friday for current students.

“Including Friday’s presell, we probably had 50 or 60 people. It was surprising,” says Hurt. “We made a substantial amount of money, and the rest of the books and maps will be donated. We hope they find good homes.”

Four students attended in-person or virtually at the Geography Alumni Roundtable, held Homecoming weekend.

MU Geography Alumni Roundtable (see separate article)

The MU Geography Alumni Roundtable was held Friday, Oct. 8 at 3:30 pm in Stewart 216. Panelists there were Madeline Bloss, Colton Kimminau and Wiley Howell. Abby Hunt appeared via Zoom.

They did self-introductions, which included the year they graduated, their major, their interests in geography, and their current career goals/job experience and how they got it.

They were also asked a series of questions, including the skills they learned in school that are valuable to their current roles, their most important college experiences, what they wished they would have known as undergrad students, and advice on how other students could find meaningful work and gainful employment after graduation.