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Tom Rabenhorst, Senior Lecturer Emeritus in the Department of Geography and Environmental Systems (GES) at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), died Saturday after a long battle with brain cancer.

Tom began his career at UMBC in 1973 as a part-time instructor while also an Assistant Professor at Montgomery Community College. He became a full time lecturer at UMBC in 1975, teaching courses in physical geography, cartography and remote sensing, while also developing its highly successful training program in cartography.

Over his 40 years at UMBC, Tom trained hundreds of students who have gone on to careers with many federal, state and local agencies, as well as private companies. He was always seeking ways to challenge his students and his ability to get the very best from them is evidenced by the numerous awards they won for cartographic design. In particular, his 2003 Advanced Cartography class designed and produced The Digital Atlas of Maryland Agriculture that was awarded “Best in Show” and “Best Digital Entry” in the National Map Competition held by the American Congress of Surveying and Mapping, honors never before given to a student entry. In addition, his students had remarkable success in winning highly competitive and prestigious National Geographic Society internships.

Tom was the co-author of two monographs (Applied Cartography and Applied Cartography: Introduction to Remote Sensing), and the author of numerous published maps, including an important contribution to the Historical Atlas of the United States (National Geographic Society) that utilized the base maps he developed for the Historical U.S. County Outline Map Collection 1840-1980. Tom was an avid hiker and, together with his wife Carol, he hiked and mapped the trail systems of several state and local parks and published interpretative maps of each that have become highly popular. At the time of his death, Tom, along with GES colleague Jeff Halverson, was working on a textbook on Severe Storms to be published by Oxford University Press. Tom also served for several years as the Cartographic Editor of the Annals of the Association of American Geographers, the flagship journal in American geography, and he was recognized for elevating the professional standards of cartographic contributions published in the journal.

Tom was a beloved friend to many and he impacted many lives at UMBC and beyond. He leaves behind many accomplishments but his legacy as a human being exceeds anything that can be written down in a curriculum vitae. His incredible vitality and willingness to help anyone who asked for his assistance will be missed.

Adapted with permission from a letter to the UMBC Community. 


This and other obituaries can be found in the AAG Necrology (aag.org/necrology). Share your thoughts and memories.