Alfred H. Meyer
Probably no faculty member had a greater influence on geography at VU than Alfred Meyer. Arriving on campus in 1926, he was instrumental in founding the Department of Geography and Geology in 1931. For the next four decades he was both an accomplished teacher and a prolific scholar. His sequent occupance studies of the Kankakee Marsh and the Calumet region were among the best ever prepared in that genre. He was also a steady contributor to the Journal of Geography and served as president of the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) in 1957. He inspired students through personal attention to become geographers and pursue careers in the field. In recognition of his contributions to geography education the NCGE recognized him with the Distinguished Service Award in 1969.
Dr. Meyer was particularly skilled at illustrating land and life through what he called "ecological silhouettes." These lavish, detailed graphics captured the historical geography of the Kankakee and Calumet regions splendidly. They were not just scientific diagrams, but works of art. Here Dr. Meyer (right) presents his silhouettes of the Calumet at the International Geographical Union meeting in Washington D.C.
Local research has always been a hallmark of VU's geography program. This research included Meyer's own work on Northwest Indiana and joint efforts by faculty and students on manufacturing and urban development along the southern end of Lake Michigan. The photo (at left) shows Meyer (far left) discussing his chorographic map of land use in the Kankakee Marsh. This tradition of research, with an emphasis on local field work, continues to this day.
Alfred Meyer's class views a presentation on Sri Lanka by a student in the 1940s (right). Notice that all of the students in the photo are women, typical of the WWII era. Even in the early days of the Department the faculty encouraged female students to attend graduate school, and many earned Master's degrees in geography.