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Charles R. Gildersleeve

Dr. Charles Gildersleeve was professor of geography at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and one of the founders of the Geographic Educators of Nebraska (GEON). He died at the age of 69 on October 10, 2009.

Known to his colleagues as "Chuck," he began his career at Omaha University in 1964. He received his BA (1961) and MA (1964) degrees from the University of Arizona, and his Ph.D.(1978) from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  He taught at Omaha University / University of Nebraska-Omaha for 45 years.

Born in Iowa, he lived his early life in Zearing, known to thousands of students in his classes as Cupcake Corners and home of the 40 horse hitch. His first love was teaching and over his career taught nearly 20,000 college students. His primary teaching interests were in human, urban, economic and educational geography. He won numerous teaching awards at the University, as well as from national professional groups, and was extremely popular with students who regularly mentioned him in evaluations as a teacher "who made a difference" in their lives.

Charles R. Gildersleeve
Gildersleeve memorial gathering

A memorial service was held Oct. 22, 2009. John Christensen, UNO Chancellor, spoke at the service: Prof. Gildersleeve brought to UNO a "commitment to the teaching/learning process that was, and is, unparalleled. If Chuck didn’t create the construct of being student centered in all that we do as faculty, he certainly lived this notion with passion and professionalism each and every day. For many of us he was a mentor, model, and inspiration."

Chancellor Christensen went on to say:

Chuck touched the lives of more than 20,000 students in his career and he had a penchant for remembering their names and staying in touch long after they left campus. He did change lives, he made a difference, and for Chuck it was personal. He once told me, 'John, when you suit up for class, you can never prepare enough…you can never give enough to your students, but it’s the effort to obtain that unreachable goal that separates the good from the great.' What I know is, Chuck is one of the great ones. Simply said, he is a campus and community treasure and his story lives on with family, with each of us and his students, and the Gildersleeve way will endure. UNO is a better place because of Chuck and on behalf of all of us, thank you my friend, and God Speed. [Full speech]

Randy Bertolas from Wayne State College and Coordinator of the Geography Educators of Nebraska commented that Chuck "believed in a generation of geography majors, pre-service teachers, young professors, and new administrators looking to find their way in the academy" [Full speech].

Harris Payne, Supervisor for Social Studies for the Omaha Public Schools, commented:

The world has lost a father, a grand-father, a talented teacher, a warm and friendly gentleman and an enthusiastic bringer of joy. He made geography interesting. He made learning fun. He made us look at the world and ourselves through a new set of geographic glasses. Chuck cared about everyone he met with a sincerity and affection that made him very unique. [Full speech]

Over 100 tributes have been left at the website. [All tributes]

Gildersleeve in the classroom 1960s
In the classroom, March 1979
April 1979
Feb 2009
February 2009

A Geography Scholarship Fund has been created in honor of Prof. Gildersleeve. Contributions may be sent to:

University of Nebraska Foundation
Charles Gildersleeve Geography Scholarship Fund

2285 South 67th Street, Ste. 200
Omaha, NE 68106
402-502-0300 direct
800-432-3216 toll-free
Fax 402-502-4123