Sherwood Dodge Shankland Award for Encouragement of Teachers (1988)
Professor of Geology-Geography (1978-2014)

Retirement Announcement

David H. Hickcox, Professor of Geology-Geography, joined the Ohio Wesleyan faculty in 1978 having received his B.A. from the University of Colorado, M.A. from the University of Montana, and Ph.D. from the University of Oregon. In 1968, Hickcox was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army and served three years of active duty, two in Germany during the Cold War, and one in Vietnam, assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, the famed “Screaming Eagles.” He was awarded a Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medal among other decorations for his service in Vietnam. He remained in the Army Reserve for several years, retiring with the rank of Major. Hickcox was instrumental in establishing OWU’s Environmental Studies program in 1979, the first of its kind at any private college in Ohio. He served as its director from 1979 until 2012. Over the course of his 36-year career at OWU, Dr. Hickcox taught courses in Physical Geography; Energy Resources; Weather, Climate, and Climate Change; and Environmental Alteration. He worked hard to keep the courses relevant for his students. If you asked his former students, they would say that he was a tough and demanding professor; they would also tell you that his rigor paid off in the long term as his students found themselves well­ prepared for the challenges of post-OWU life. More than one former student has commented that before taking his Weather, Climate, and Climate Change course, they usually looked down at the ground as they walked; after taking the course, they looked up at the sky and clouds. His colleagues credit him with attracting many students to the study of geography over the years, and he has maintained close contact with these alumni following their graduation from OWU.

In addition to serving as the director of the Environmental Studies program, Dr. Hickcox actively participated in the faculty governance system at OWU. He served on the Academic Policy Committee, (including a term as committee chair), Executive Committee, and Academic Status Committee, and he chaired the first Committee on Assessment and was instrumental in developing OWU’s assessment program. He was also among a small group of faculty who developed the first two annual National Colloquium series. He also frequently served as an unofficial advisor for OWU students interested in military service, and, at times, officiated at the post-graduation commissioning ceremonies held on the front steps of University Hall.  Perhaps his most important service to OWU was predicting weather for the Commencement ceremonies, normally held outdoors in Phillips Glen. Over the past 36 years, there have been several close calls with rain and severe weather, but Hickcox’s forecasting skills kept graduation ceremonies outside in all but a few years.

Dr. Hickcox’s research has focused on water resources, energy resources, and weather and climate. He has published several articles on ground water usage, water rights, and energy development in southeastern Montana. In the late 1980s, Dr. Hickcox organized an international symposium on the Great Lakes and edited the symposium proceedings, The Great Lakes: Living with North America’s Inland Waters, for the American Water Resources Association. For many years, he collected climate data for the United States that formed the foundation for 20 annual articles in Weatherwise on the daily temperature extremes in the United States. A summary of these articles was featured yearly in various media throughout the United States. He also authored three articles in Focus in Geography about the causes and impacts of the Great Flood of 1993 in the upper Mississippi River Basin. Dr. Hickcox has written several articles and seven books about railroads in the United States, focusing especially on the Great Northern Railroad. He also served as a consultant to the National Geographic Society and was one of a small number of geographers who created the first National Geography Bee, including both writing the questions for the Geography Bee and serving as a judge during the national finals in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Hickcox’s passion encompasses numerous aspects of the geography of the United States and Canada, especially the American West, the Great Lakes and his native Vermont. He uses photography extensively, both professionally and as a hobby, and can often be found in the landscape with his cameras and notebook, especially along railroads and waterways. When not otherwise engaged, he can be found reading and relaxing in Vermont’s “Northeast Kingdom.”

Written by Bart S. Martin, Ph.D., Professor of Geology-Geography

Interview