Long-time LSU cultural-historical geographer, Kent Mathewson, will receive one of the highest forms of recognition from the leading U.S. professional geography organization. The American Association of Geographers has selected Professor Mathewson to receive its 2017 Ron Abler Distinguished Service Honor. AAG Honors are the highest awards offered by the association. They are presented annually to recognize outstanding accomplishments by members in research & scholarship, teaching, education, service to the discipline, public service outside academe, and for lifetime achievement.
Professor Mathewson’s honor comes in recognition of exemplary and unselfish service to the profession in the departmental, university, and professional arenas. Most notably, he has served as book review editor for two flagship geography journals—Annals of the AAG and the Geographical Review—and launched the AAG’s Review of Books in 2012 which he currently edits. He also served an extended stint as book review editor for Historical Geography. For more than fifteen years, he has raised the visibility of countless authors by showcasing their work in the print and digital versions of these professional outlets. In an era where journal articles sometimes overshadow the considerable effort invested in academic monographs, Mathewson has helped sustain this important form of scholarship. He has been described as the “premier guardian of the profession’s literary compass.”
In addition to being a book review editor exemplar, he has devoted untold hours to service on journal editorial boards. In that capacity he has, once again, helped authors place their work in front of their peers. He has taken on leadership roles with specialty groups in the AAG and other professional organizations, providing voluntary efforts to these organizations and ensuring their continued function.
Here at LSU, he has served on nearly every committee in our department, taken on numerous tasks at the university level, and most notably participated in crafting the Atlantic Studies Multidisciplinary Hiring Initiative proposal. His collaboration on the Atlantic Studies proposal created a position in our department that continues to pay dividends annually. He also serves as the unofficial department historian, chronicling the roles of many scholars who have built a proud tradition of LSU geography and anthropology. And, no individual has been a more steadfast proponent of our joint department. Consistently, he has placed the department above his own personal interests.
LSU alum Michael Steinberg noted another important service contribution—that of professional “matchmaker.” Having a truly impressive professional network, Professor Mathewson has played a critical role in helping put the right people together to launch conferences and edited volumes. He has played key roles in various national and regional conferences that have come to New Orleans (AAG 2003) and Baton Rouge (SWAAG 1998). Such service is often lost in the final analysis, but those who know Kent, recognize these important contributions. This talent has also been manifest for decades as Kent faithfully organized LSU alumni gatherings at our national geography conferences—reinforcing the links among our far-flung graduates. His networking and national recognition as a scholar helped the LSU department earn national recognition, sharing the national lead in Cultural Geography in 2003 and the earning the top ranking in Historical Geography in 2005.
One form of service that is nearly invisible to the wider profession is his steadfast and earnest support of his students and colleagues. He has written an untold number of reference letters for his graduates and peers. And beyond mere letters, these missives are filled with persuasive flourishes and compelling prose. He has unquestionably poured out the powerful prose in support of others. His former students hold him in high esteem for his generous efforts.