December 16, 2016

Planning Chair, Prof Christopherson Dies After Battle With Cancer

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A chair of the city and regional planning department, Prof. Susan Christopherson, died Tuesday after suffering from cancer, the University announced. She was 69.

Christopherson began work with the city and regional planning department in 1987 and was the first woman to be promoted to full professor in her department. In 2014, she became the first woman to become department chair. She was on leave from Cornell this semester.

Before working at Cornell, Christopherson acted as a visiting professor at San Diego State University and a visiting lecturer at the University of Texas, El Paso.

Christopherson received her Bachelor’s degree in urban studies and her Masters in geography at the University of Minnesota; she earned a doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley. During her time as an economic geographer, she focused on economic development, urban labor markets and location patterns in media and other service industries.

Kent Kleinman, dean of the College of Architecture, Art and Planning, called Christopherson a “remarkable intellect, a master of so many fields and a force for good.”

“Her academic accomplishments were many, but they hardly sum up this remarkable person who was a whirlwind of creative ideas, hard work, fairness and grace,” he said. “She will be sorely missed.”

Christopherson coauthored the book Remaking Regional Economies: Power, Labor and Firm Strategies in Knowledge Economy, which won the 2009 Regional Studies Association Best Book Award. She also received the Lifetime Achievement Honors award by the Association of American Geographers in 2015 and the Sir Peter Hall Contribution to the Field Award from the Regional Studies Association in Great Britain.

Not only did Christopherson conduct and supervise “path-breaking research” in regional economic development, but she also strongly influenced “scholarly conversations in the field,” according to Prof. Kieran Donaghy, acting chair of the city and regional planning department.

“Susan was an important scholar, a highly regarded instructor and a dependable colleague, who contributed much to the life of the department,” Donaghy said. “Her presence in West Sibley Hall will be greatly missed.”

Throughout her career, Christopherson published over 100 articles and was involved with many journalistic institutions. Her latest work focused on nontraditional energy sources and extraction, specifically tracing how these topics can influence public policy and the human-environment relationship.

“She was a wonderful colleague — such a creative thinker and innovative researcher,” said Prof. Mildred Warner, city and regional planning. “It was an intellectual feast to be part of her classes or research team.”