A Lively Chronicle: 1963-2000

Department History – A Lively Chronicle: 1963-2000
By Susan Baumgart

Table of Contents


Early Department History: From Catalogs, Archives, and Emails

The University of California Santa Barbara had its roots in a California State Teachers’ College. The campus was on the Santa Barbara Riviera, where the current owner, Brooks Institute of Photography, now rents space to a movie theater and a business park. When the school was on the Riviera, geography classes were offered by faculty from various departments (for instance, Geology and Economics). The college became officially part of the University of California in 1944.

By 1954, the campus was spread over two sites — the Riviera and the mesa overlooking the harbor and Ledbetter beach. (The mesa site is now City College.) Having outgrown the space, the school moved entirely to its present location in an unincorporated part of Santa Barbara. The site had been marine base, and the University still uses some of the government “temporary” buildings that were part of the base. The campus is bordered by the largely-student community of Isla Vista on the west and the Santa Barbara airport on the north. East and south is the Pacific Ocean.

In 1962, Dr. Robert Johnson and a young doctoral candidate were hired as lecturers to teach a few geography classes. The two men did not stay. In 1963, Berl Golomb (a doctoral candidate) and Robert McColl (who had a BA), were tapped. At the time Golomb heard of the opening at UCSB, he had been waiting for a security clearance for a government job. The clearance was dragging on and on, because Golomb had been born in what was then part of the USSR. Jim Parsons, who was the Berkeley Geography Department Chair, told Golomb about the position and suggested he apply. Both Golomb and McColl had Master of Arts degrees and were given the title “Lecturer.” Golomb subsequently received his doctorate, and spent the 1960s building the Geography Program, hoping to become automous as a Department.[a]

The first time Geography appears as its own category in the UCSB General Catalog was for 1964-65. McColl taught Geography 1 Elements of Geography and 120 Political Geography. Golomb taught Geography 2 Introduction to Human Geography and 3 Elements of Physical Geography. Geography 5 Economic Geography was listed, but readers were told it would not be offered this year. However, an Economic and Political Geography course was offered through the Education Abroad Program at Bordeaux, France. The fifth class in the catalog was a 199 Independent Studies in Geography.

Geography, although inaugurated, was not a department. As stated in the General Catalog, “No major is as yet offered in Geography, pending organization of the Department…. The program is under the direction of the Dean of the College of Letters and Sciences.” Geography courses were considered “service courses” for social science majors.

According to the catalog, Geography’s status was the same the following school year, with Golomb and McColl still the only instructors. The two men, however, were granted the titles of Assistant Professor of Geography. The initial five courses, listed the previous year, were still offered, though Economic Geography moved from lower to upper division. Seven classes were added: Urban Geography, Climatology, Asia, Africa, Latin America, China, and Middle America.

In February of 1966, the Geography Program was allowed to offer a major, and two undergraduate seniors signed up.[b] The first General Catalog to advertise the major was 1966-67. McColl was gone, Ronald Horvath was hired as an Assistant Professor, and John James, who then had an M.A., was hired as an Acting Assistant Professor. Golomb, though not the official Chair (the Dean still retained control), did, according to the sole staff person who worked in Geography at the time, all the work of a Chair.[c] Five classes were added: Weather and Climate, World Regional Geography, California, Man in Nature, and a Seminar in Political Geography. A description of the study of Geography first appears:

    “Geographers investigate the surface of the earth as the home of man. The discipline of Geography is focused on a broad range of man-and-environment interactions, and encourages a variety of investigative approaches to problem of the ecology of man. Because of the breadth of integration in the physical, biological and social sciences, undergraduate Geography training provides a basic and useful liberal education. Graduate studies in Geography permit specific training in a number of scholarly and technical fields.”

    (1966-67 General Catalog, Page 171)

The Geography Program at UCSB bloomed in 1967-68. Golomb was still the anchor faculty member. James stayed; Horvath left. Five were added: Yehuda Kedar (Visiting Assistant Professor), Michael Kuhn (Visiting Assistant Professor), Robert Curry (Acting Assistant Professor), Norman Gosenfeld (Lecturer), and Sri Ratnam Swami (Lecturer). One lower division class was added, and 12 upper division. Curry brought expertise in geologic geography courses, James took over climatology and weather. Map and Photo Interpretation was offered for the first time. Kedar taught it.

The following year, the instructors shrank to five. James and Kedar left. Curry became Dr. Curry and was promoted to Assistant Professor. Five more upper division classes were added, four of which made use of Curry’s geologic background.

According to the 1969-70 catalog, there were eight instructors, but there was a lot of turnover. Golomb, Kuhn, and Gosenfeld remained. Peter Mason, Norman Sanders, John Estes, and Bernard Riley came aboard. This is the first year Estes taught Air Photo Interpretation.

Sanders, who was from Australia, taught a course on Australiasia and Oceania and one on Environmental Pollution. He was very involved in local environmental issues. He even fought Chancellor Cheadle’s effort to bring an entrance road to Storke tower right over the Goleta Slough. According to Golomb, while Sanders’ actions gained a lot of student and press support (1969 was the year of the oil platform blowout in the Channel), Chancellor Cheadle became less kindly disposed to Geography. Any chance of gaining self-governance and departmental status from the College of Letters and Science dimmed.[d] Sanders, by the way, has since gained awards from his native Australia, to which he returned and for which he spent time as a legislator, for his contributions to environmental causes.[e]

1969-70 is the first year researchers were listed in the catalog. Sidney Frank was a Research Associate in Meterology; David Kleinecke was a Research Associate in Quantitative Geography.

The following year, 1970-71, John “Jack” Estes began building the air photo and remote sensing business upon which the Department launched five years later. However, the program as a whole shrank. Golomb explained that Reaganomics was having a profound effect on the University as a whole and Geography in particular.[d] Although there were six listed faculty members, only five were present. One of the four listed lower division classes was not offered this year; 16 of the 36 listed upper division classes were not offered.

By 1971-72, Golomb had left. He saw no future since the College of Letters and Science had not granted him tenure and wanted a big name to head the Department that they wished to create.[d] Faculty were down to five, and no researchers were listed. Only three lower division courses were listed and 29 upper division ones, with nine of the upper division courses not offered this school year. Cartography was listed, but not offered.

The following year, according to the 1972-73 catalog, the faculty remained stable. Peter Mason was given the title of Acting Vice Chairman of the program. Only two lower division courses were offered — a human and a physical geography class. Twenty-eight upper division classes were listed, with eight of those not offered this year. Cartography continued to be listed, but not offered.

Riley had left by 1973-74. Estes, Haiman, Kuhn, Mason, and Sanders were still there. Sydney Frank was again listed as a Research Associate in Meterology. Class listings and offerings remained at the same number as the last year. Biogeography was offered for the first time, taught by Haiman. Biogeography later became its own research lab, affiliated with Geography, then in 2001 moving over to the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management.

The 1974-75 catalog advertised Geography as a department. A blank spot was at the top of the faculty list, with the words “Professor of Geography (Chairman of the Department)” next to it. Only three faculty remained from the previous year: Estes, Mason, and Sanders. Frank continued to be listed as a researcher in meteorology. Arthur Strahler was added as a researcher in Geography and Geology. Cartography was finally offered — by staff. Cartography later became a fundamental strength of the Department with the coming of Waldo Tobler in 1977. For the first time in several years, all the courses that were listed were actually offered.

David Simonett was hired as Chair July 1, 1974 and was listed as such in the 1975-76 catalog. Other faculty members listed were: Christopher Clayton, Jeffrey Dozier, John Estes, and Alan Strahler. Researchers continued to be Sidney Frank and Arthur Strahler. No lower division courses were offered, but 35 upper division courses were offered. The Department was about to take off in a major growth spurt.


  1. Source of personal information about Berl Golomb: personal email from Berl Golomb to Susan Baumgart, 2002.
  2. Two Geography majors are in the 1966 yearbook — yearbooks only listed seniors.
  3. Source: personal email from Maggie Day to Susan Baumgart. Maggie, whose last name was Greenwald in the 1960s, was Geography’s receptionist.
  4. Source: personal email from Berl Golomb to Susan Baumgart, 2002.
  5. Source: personal email from Terry Simmons to Susan Baumgart, 2002.

–Susan Baumgart (Geography artist, photographer, and webmaster; also a UCSB Geography major in latter 1960s)