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Remembering Professor Emeritus Roger Dubois

"I am in search of the perfect beach."

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our colleague and friend Dr. Roger Dubois on Oct. 14, 2021. He began his career as a professor in 1972 at the Catholic University of America before joining the faculty of the Geography Department at UMBC in 1975. He continued to serve the university community for 30 years before his retirement in 2005.

His research focused on beaches, seasonal variations in beach profiles in response to wave climate and tidal variations, and effects of sea-level rise on shoreline erosion and beach profile retreat. He taught courses in physical geography and in introductory geomorphology as well as coastal and fluvial geomorphology. He was a coastal geomorphologist, passionate about teaching, about supporting his students, and about UMBC.

Some years ago, Roger shared with colleagues that by coming to UMBC nine years after it opened, he had the unique opportunity to be involved in the development of the university and the development of the Geography and Environmental Systems (GES) department. Professor Dubois was down-to-earth, modest, and unassuming in his personal demeanor, and a strong believer in doing things the right way. For Roger, research was touching the edge of human knowledge, and the goal of teaching was elevating students to a higher level of understanding. He said, “There are no ifs, and or buts about that, and the department has stayed strong over time because of it.”

Dr. Dubois was a Rhode Island native and a Navy veteran. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Geography from University of Wisconsin-River Falls in 1967 and his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in Geography from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1970 and 1972.

Dr. Dubois is survived by his wife Patricia Dubois, his life’s partner and collaborator in everything he did.

His colleagues, friends, and students mourn his passing and honor the memory of his contributions from the early days of the GES department to its growth and development as a vital community of scholars.

Faculty and friends are welcome to make a donation to the Sprint to the End Scholarship in memory of Dr. Dubois.  The GES department would also like to collect memories from UMBC friends and colleagues to create a memory book for his wife.

Professors Erle Ellis, Andy Miller, and Sandy Parker have shared their memories below. Those who would like to add their memories of Roger Dubois can do so through the memory book form.  

Erle Ellis: “I have fond memories of Roger. He had the kind of personality that seemed gruff at first, but within a short time, his kindness, generosity, and curiosity shone through, and one realized that he was someone who cared deeply about people. Not to mention his love of scholarship. He put his all into teaching and strengthening our department. I can still feel his presence in the hallway sometimes. I'll never forget how, when I first asked him what he did, he told me, smiling: "I am in search of the perfect beach". That was such a great metaphor for his work in coastal geomorphology, and was also classic Roger humor. And that is how I will think of him evermore: Roger on the perfect beach.”

 Andy Miller: “Roger always was an energetic and enthusiastic participant in conversations about all sorts of topics, and he possessed an extraordinary intensity of focus on the question in front of him. Whether in casual conversation or in a discussion about an issue to be decided by the faculty, he approached you with a series of rapid-fire questions, probing for the thing he wanted to know that was the key to understanding what needed to be done. The smallest details were important to him, but never to the exclusion of seeing the bigger picture. Whether he was standing at the blackboard in a classroom or chatting with colleagues, he always acted with intention. For students it was to make sure they understood what was most important and could use it to find their own paths forward. For colleagues it was to help ensure the good of the whole.”

Sandy Parker: “Roger was one of the most decent and honorable people I have known.  He cared deeply for his students.  Behind that serious exterior he had a fine sense of humor, was concerned for the welfare of his colleagues, and was committed to the success of our program.“

Posted: November 15, 2021, 7:42 PM