Edward G. Pleva
Dr. Edward G. Pleva, founder and Professor of Geography Emeritus at the University of Western Ontario died on February 7, in his 96th year. Ed was born on May 12, 1912 in Minnesota. His university education occurred at the University of Minnesota (BA 1934; MA 1936; PhD 1939, all Geography) and Syracuse University (MA Geology 1935). He received two honorary degrees from Waterloo Lutheran (now Wilfrid Laurier University) and The University of Western Ontario.
In 1938, at the age of 26, Ed Pleva was hired to teach geography at Western, and in due course, establish a geography program. During World War II, his time was divided equally between Western and the Office of Strategic Services in Washington, D.C. After the war, he was responsible for establishing the Geography Department as a separate entity in 1948. He served as Head of the Department until 1968 and continued to serve as a Professor there until his retirement in 1977.
His academic interests were varied and included community planning, regional planning, river valley development, location of economic activity, water resources, resource development, recreation and teaching geography in high schools. His contributions were significant. His commitment to community motivated his participation in many neighborhood associations, including traffic committees, and regional, city and suburban planning boards. In 1969, the City of London honoured him as “one of Canada’s distinguished geographers” and awarded him the Distinguished Community Service Award. He was first editor of The Canadian Geographer and the Ontario Geography Monographs. In 1960, he served as President of the Canadian Association of Geographers. He was a contributor to the Background Papers for the Resources for Tomorrow Conference, which redefined resource management in Canada. It led to the creation of the Canada Land Inventory, which formed the initial basis for the development of one of the first geographic information systems. His research on the corridor growth of industry and population between Windsor and Montreal were seminal.
Ed’s work as the lead editor of atlases and books on the regional geography of Canada had a profound impact on high school geography. He played a major role in developing Ontario’s geography curriculum for secondary schools in the 1950s and 1960s. A tribute to Ed’s efforts was made by one commentator who suggested: “Of all provincial curricula, that of Ontario presents geography in its strongest form and exemplifies an approach to the curriculum design that assumes a high level of professional expertise in the teacher.” As a university educator, Ed served as a mentor and role model to many students who would later influence university geography. In tribute to Ed’s commitment and excellence in teaching, The University of Western Ontario established, in 1987, the The Edward G. Pleva Award for Excellence in Teaching - awarded each year to full-time members of Western's faculty and affiliated colleges. According to him; “It's hard to describe something you like so much. If you want to accomplish anything in life you have be willing to try, and do something you want to do. That's what I did."
Ed placed a very high value on connecting and maintaining friendships with people as reflected in his comment - “I have built up a tremendous amount of social capital and that means more to me than money. I am in all the significant North American networks in which I am interested: resource development, the environment, geographic education, Atlas production, computer capability, etc.” Indeed, Ed’s life was four entwined in one – academic, educator, mentor and planner. He is pre-deceased by his wife Grace.
Memorial contributions to the University of Western Ontario in memory of Edward G. Pleva can be sent to:
Ms. Donna Swanson
The University of Western Ontario
Westminster College, Suite 110
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