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PostWAISers: David Hooson, 1926-2008 (Margaret Mackenzie-Hooson) (John Eipper, USA, 07/12/08 11:34 am)
To the WAIS Community:
I just received this sad announcement from Margaret Mackenzie-Hooson:
David Hooson, my husband, who was a founding member of WAIS long
before it was WAIS (CIIS) and was once on the Board, died on May 16.
He had known Ronald Hilton for many many years, and was very fond of
Mary as well. I'll copy a couple of obituaries below.
This one I wrote two days afterwards was published in our very local
paper, the *West Marin Citizen*.
The second is from the *Times* of London.
David Hooson died on May 16 at Shell Beach. Aged 82, he was a
Professor Emeritus of Geography at the University of California at
Berkeley, a former Dean of Social Sciences, a former Chairman of the
Department of Geography, and a former Chair of the Center for Slavic
and East European Studies--his expertise was the former Soviet Union
and the former Soviet Republics in Central Asia, on which he had
written two books: *A New Soviet Heartland?* (1964) and *The Soviet
Union--A Systematic Regional Geography* (1966). He was a former
Chairman of the Commission on the History of Geographical Thought in
the International Geographical Union, and in the International Union
of the History and Philosophy of Science. He was interested in
studying national identities, on which he had edited a book:
*Geography and National Identity* (1994). In the nineteen-sixties,
his work made a significant impact on geography within the Soviet
Union itself, and his publications were the center of passionate
discussion and controversies. Born in a five hundred year-old house
in the Vale of Clwyd in North Wales, he was an undergraduate at
Oxford; his Ph.D. in Geography was from the London School of
Economics. His first academic post was at the University of Glasgow,
then he came to the United States in 1956 to teach at the University
of Maryland, moving soon afterwards to the University of British
Columbia. A position was created for him at Berkeley in 1966, from
which he retired in 1997, although he continued to teach there for
three more years. He was still teaching this term at the Fromm
Institute of Lifelong Learning at the University of San Francisco--a
course with the astounding title of "What Does it Take to Dominate the
World?"--160 people signed up at pre-registration.
And he was one of the regular swimmers at Shell Beach.
He was a wonderfully warm-hearted, loving man who valued kindness
above everything. He had a fabulous sense of humor and a relish for
life and light-heartedness. He adored dancing. He loved West Marin,
spending several years in Bolinas in the late nineteen-seventies and
early eighties, and moving permanently to Inverness Park in 1992.
Since Friday late afternoon, our house has been filled with neighbors
and friends and former students and colleagues who have come to tell
one another and me, how much they loved him and enjoyed him and felt
"seen" by him in ways that made a significant difference in their
lives. Tears and laughter have mixed as people tell anecdotes ranging
from his kindness, his sense of fun, to his refusal to be hectic, his
capacity to enjoy life, his love of Shell Beach and of West Marin, to
his lack of interest in practical matters and the sometimes hilarious
consequences. Many people have mentioned his brilliance, his wisdom,
and his immense knowledge about world affairs. The house is filled
with flowers and overflowing with food. I am a New Zealander, and my
respect and appreciation for Americans has been skyrocketing,
especially for people in West Marin. The kindness and unbroken support
I have received are astonishing and immensely generous. Although the
immediate cause of death was drowning, the cause of the
drowning--unlikely in a regular swimmer--may become clear when the
coroner's report is made. (It was a massive heart attack which brought
him death instantly without struggle.)
I am so moved by the story I have been told about Kay McMann, who was
disturbed enough by seeing something anomalous, but not clearly
distinguishable, floating in the water, that she persuaded Moreva
Selchie to swim out to check, of Moreva's pushing herself to swim out
rather far, and then her realizing that he was dead, and swimming
hurriedly ashore to get help from the Sheriff and the Park Service and
the Coast Guard, having persuaded two men passing by in kayaks to hold
David's body from floating out further by making a 'V' with their
boats until assistance arrived. It means so much to me to have been
told that she has said that he was held in the circle of regular
swimmers, of which she counted him as a member. He died in his
favorite place in the world, Shell Beach, in his favorite medium, the
water, at a time when he was happily enjoying his life and looking
forward to returning to Oxford for the summer. He was spared
prolonged suffering. He left life with the loose ends tied up, his
family at peace.
Several people have said that he had given us what we needed. He had
completed his work; he was not planning any new projects. He leaves
me, Cariadne Margaret Mackenzie-Hooson, as his widow; his son Roger
Hooson and daughter-in-law Karen Hata, of Berkeley; his daughter Clare
of Belmont; and his former wife, Alison, of Point Richmond, along with
a brother John and sister Helen, and nieces and nephews in Wales,
England, and Scotland. There will be a small ceremony in West Marin
in June, and probably in September a memorial service at Berkeley,
another on a mountainside in North Wales where there are memorials for
his family, and one at the Royal Geographical Society in London.
(August 24 2p.m. at the Faculty Club at Berkeley; October 24 at the
Royal Geographical Society in London.)
On Sunday morning May 18, Dr Steve Hadland dedicated to David much of
the music on his Daybreak program on KWMR. He said: "On Friday, my
friend David swam free of his body on Shell Beach."
Here is David Lowenthal's obituary for the *Times*:
Professor David J. M. Hooson
David Hooson, a renowned authority on the geography of the Soviet
Union, profoundly influenced scholarship both within and beyond
Russia. Having learned Russian to qualify for a university lectureship
in the 1950s, he rapidly became familiar with, then a participant in,
the intense dispute between traditional party-line determinists long
dominant in academic Moscow and Leningrad, and post-Stalin humanists.
Doctrinaire communists had disowned Russia's rich Tsarist human
geography legacy, dismissed cultural and historical understanding as
counter-revolutionary, reduced geography to the study of the physical
environment, and enthroned resource development as its sole purpose.
Stalin's death and Khrushchev's reforms gave Soviet scholars what
Hooson termed a shot of adrenaline in a climate of confidence and
optimism that newly emboldened them to question old dogmas.
The only Western scholar involved, as well that rara avis, a Soviet
specialist who was not a Cold Warrior, Hooson revealed to the world
the ongoing conflict between the old guard, headed by the autocratic
I. P. Gerasimov, and the rebels, led by N. N. Baransky, Yu. G.
Saushkin and V. A. Anuchin. The neophyte Hooson--modestly terming
himself a one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind--became both a
flashpoint of Soviet controversy and an invaluable adviser to Western
strategists. Recently arrived in the United States from austerity
Britain, he lectured American military leaders dismayed by Sputnik on
how the Soviets had achieved orbital space flight. Hooson was amazed
alike by the huge servings of roast beef in the Pentagon cafeteria and
by the deference paid him by his audience of generals and admirals.
But he found them well versed in the Oxford geographer Sir Halford
Mackinder's 1904 heartland theory, which predicted the shift from
imperial maritime to land power through the growth of rail transport,
making Germany and Russia rulers of the world. Gospel both in Nazi
Germany and Soviet Russia, Mackinder's thesis remained hugely
influential in postwar Russia.
Several visits to the Soviet Union, including the Far East, Central
Asia, and the Caucasus, generated a dozen essays and two major books,
*A New Soviet Heartland?* (1964) and *The Soviet Union: People and
Regions* (1966). Hooson showed how resource exploitation (in the
heartland) east of the Volga, together with a Chinese alliance and
hegemony over central and eastern Europe, had created a golden age of
Soviet power stimulated by "palpably increased confidence, enthusiasm,
and efficiency." But the enthusiasm and openness of the early 1960s
waned after Brezhnev, and Hooson's attention shifted from what he
termed Soviet "morbidity" towards regional development, the history of
geography, and rival national frames of reference. In his edited
*Geography and National Identity* (1994), a path-breaking comparative
text, Hooson noted that Soviet disintegration required redrawing
"mental maps of this enormous slice of the earth's surface," paying
special heed to the regional attachments that were peoples' "life
blood and collective soul." A decade after Glasnost he lamented the
"aching vacuum of the spirit, born of disillusionment not only with
communism and the betrayal of its ideals" but also with the way that
Russia's Western-style market economy had brought "great riches for
the very few and deepening poverty for the many."
Hooson termed geography a "broad-ranging perspective on humans seen as
inhabitants and transformers of the earth." Resurgent national
identities the world over made the geographical dimension
"fundamental, ultimately and increasingly inescapable, and to be
ignored at our peril." Despite prevalent cynicism, malaise, anxiety
and anger, he viewed former Soviet peoples--notably in Central
Asia--as "in some ways better in touch with their own history, their
own geography, than we are with ours."
Born on a farm in the Vale of Clwyd, North Wales, Hooson's father's
devotion to agricultural reform had made him inescapably "aware of
geographical realities, from climate to marketing." Happy with his
Welsh heritage, Hooson nonetheless found his valley "claustrophobic as
well as beautiful." His passionate curiosity about the world beyond
the mountains was further stimulated by a memorable visit from the
geographer-anthropologist H. J. Fleure. Following two years' wartime
service in the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm, as a weather forecaster in
monsoon Asia, Hooson gained his undergraduate degree at Hertford
College, Oxford, in 1948, and his doctorate at the London School of
Economics in 1955. He came to North America after two years as a
lecturer at the University of Glasgow, in 1956 to the University of
Maryland, moving in 1960 to the University of British Columbia, and to
the University of California at Berkeley in the mid-1960s.
Berkeley was congenial to Hooson both climatically, its fog-bound
summers mitigated by Welsh-type drawing-room fires; and
intellectually, its geography department uniquely historically minded,
humanistic and holistic, under the legendary aegis of Carl O. Sauer
and Clarence Glacken. Department chair for six years, dean of social
sciences and head of the Center for Slavic and East European Studies
for four more, Hooson taught at Berkeley for thirty-seven years. After
retirement he continued to mentor staff and students, and at his death
was teaching a course at the Fromm Institute of Lifelong Learning.
University of San Francisco, entitled "What Does It Take to Dominate
Hooson chaired the Commission on the History of Geographical Thought,
jointly sponsored by the International Union of the History and
Philosophy of Science and the International Geographical Union.
Awarded fellowships by the Institute of International Studies in 1968
and 1973, the Guggenheim Foundation in 1976, and the Mellon in
1984?85, Hooson was made Honorary Corresponding Fellow of the Royal
Geographical Society in 2000, and received the University of
California Meritorious Service Citation in 2001.
Beyond seminal scholarship, scintillating teaching and benevolent but
exacting mentoring--he was proud that none of his students failed to
complete a dissertation--David Hooson's legacy endures in the
extraordinary warmth and compassionate generosity of his relations
with colleagues, students, family, and neighbors. He claimed his
exuberant beard, admired by Russians on recent visits there for its
likeness to Karl Marx, led some to see him as Darwin, others as Santa
Claus. "If I can achieve such virtual fame simply by not shaving," he
told graduates at a recent convocation, "think what you can do." His
delight in life, his sense of fun, and his inexhaustible kindness
enriched and endeared him to every community graced by his presence.
Hooson is survived by his wife and by a son and daughter of a previous
David Hooson, geographer, was born on April 25, 1926. He died of a
heart attack while swimming near his home at Shell Beach, Tomales Bay,
Marin County, California, May 16, 2008, aged 82.
JE comments: WAISers will remember David Hooson as one of Prof.
Hilton's closest associates and a frequent correspondent on the Forum
until recent years. I recall speaking with David on at least two
occasions: the 2001 WAIS conference and the RH Memorial Gathering
last May. He was extremely friendly to a young(ish) and unknown
WAISer--me--and I had looked forward to deepening our on-line contacts,
which--alas--did not happen. Many WAISers will be deeply saddened by this news. On behalf of all WAISdom, my thoughts go out to Margaret Mackenzie-Hooson and the rest of David's family. David will be missed.
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(WAIS), and its online publication, the World Affairs Report, read its
homepage by simply double-clicking on: http://wais.stanford.edu/
John Eipper, Editor-in-Chief, Adrian College, MI 49221 USA