December 4, 2019
Harrington Jr. receives National Council for Geographic Education's highest recognition
John Harrington Jr., professor emeritus of geography, was presented with the George J. Miller Award for Distinguished Service to Geography Education on Nov. 22 at the 104th annual meeting of the National Council for Geographic Education in Austin.
The Miller Award is the highest and most prestigious honor given by the council. The award recognizes a lifetime of achievement and contributions to geography education.
Harrington was an active member of the K-State geography department from 1994 to 2018, when he retired. He served as head of the department from 1999 to 2005.
The citation accompanying the award that documents aspects of Harrington's career that are most pertinent for the Miller Award identifies his efforts to enhance the quality and quantity of geography in the schools of the United States and Kansas. He served on the Remote Sensing Committee for NCGE from 1984-1990 and on the NCGE Geography in Science Education Task Force from 1992 to 1994. Since 2011, Harrington has served on the editorial board for the Journal of Geography, the premier journal of the National Council for Geographic Education.
He coordinated the Kansas Geographic Bee competition for fourth- through eighth-grade students from 2009 to 2017, interacting with scores of students and their parents about the importance and value of geography to solving local, regional, and global environmental and social problems. While the Bee is very much about factual information, Harrington shared the breadth of the discipline of geography and a few bits of geographical humor through programming at the Bee.
Harrington also served as the coordinator of the Kansas Geographic Alliance from 2007 to 2018, initiating a series of professional development opportunities for K-12 educators to expand their skills in teaching geography. In addition, Harrington played an important role as a leader across the national network of Geography Alliance coordinators.
Harrington expanded his intellectual engagement with geography education in the last decade of his career with advising graduate students interested in geography education topics. Along with former K-State graduate student Thomas Larsen, they participated in the National Center for Research in Geography Education network and led an NSF-funded research initiative on teaching about place, student learning progressions and place-based education.
Harrington was highly successful in all these endeavors through his consistent, clear and frequent communications with a range of stakeholders, from students to parents and to the public. The citation that documents Harrington's award concludes with: "John Harrington is known for his forthright positions on a number of issues and his willingness to take tough and perhaps unpopular stances on key matters. He has been the kind of guiding light geography and geography education has needed as the discipline has grown, evolved, and faced both opportunities and challenges. John has done this through careful analytic thinking, tenacity, and a strong sense of direction. The community owes him great thanks for caring, for his willingness to take action, and for his honesty."