Magazine Feature / People

Geographer traveled the world but loved teaching the most

Larry Herold

Larry Herold teaching a student the hand map drawing technique in a cartography class in 1985.

Larry Herold could talk about any area of the world. Mention any place on the map and he’d know it — and he’d strike up a conversation about it.

“He was a renaissance geographer,” says DU geography department Chair Andy Goetz, who worked with Herold for years. “The number of people with that kind of breadth and depth in that many areas is definitely a rarity.”

Herold, a geography professor emeritus who worked at the University for more than 35 years, died March 30 after a long illness. He was 78.

He joined DU’s faculty in 1956, chaired the department for seven years in the 1980s and retired in 1996. During that time, he also briefly taught at the University of Wyoming and Southern Colorado State College.

His students are most definitely his legacy, Goetz says.

“There’s a whole cadre of former students who are very loyal and deeply indebted to him.”

As smart and gifted as he was, his biggest gift — and passion — was his ability to connect to his students.

Nowadays, faculty members often have closer relationships with their students, Goetz explains. But years ago, faculty were not often described as “touchy-feely” and didn’t mentor their students the way many do now.

“In that way, he was a foreshadowing of what was to come as far as teaching and mentoring students,” Goetz explains. “He always had time for his students. In the kitchen area of our old office, he would set up his books and papers and things — he didn’t use a computer — and he would invite students to sit with him, chat and have a cup of coffee.”

Laurance Herold was born on May 30, 1931, in Kansas City, Mo.

Despite struggling in school as a kid — he suffered from mild dyslexia, his wife Joyce says — Herold was the first member of his family to attend college. He enrolled at the University of Colorado-Boulder, where he found his love for geography. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from there in 1953 and 1956.

He married Joyce Podlipny in 1955. They were married just short of 55 years.

Herold studied at the University of Southampton, England, where he earned his doctorate in 1968. His British professors were his role models, Joyce Herold says.

Herold demonstrated a love of land through numerous travels to places including Zimbabwe, China, Mexico and the Czech Republic. While on location, he often gave talks about Americans and his travels.

“For him, the process of traveling, learning and later teaching about a particular place was his real love of the field,” says his son, Evan Herold.

“In contrast to the hyper-specialists today, Larry approached geography as a classic study — like history or biology — that addressed minutiae of the physical and cultural world yet can put it into big pictures and address big questions of human existence,” Joyce Herold says.

Herold understood the importance of applying affection to teaching.

“He never forgot how difficult the process of learning can be and how important empathy and practical help for learners is,” Joyce Herold says, citing her husband’s personal afflictions as a kid.

“He inspired me to strive,” says former student Claudia Giannetti (MA geography ’92), who came to DU in 1987 from Argentina. “A lot of his studies focused on Latin America. It took a lot out of me to adapt as an international student. He helped with that and offered me guidance. He represented much more to me than a professor.”

Giannetti describes him as a “modern-day Mr. Chips.” His demeanor was calm and caring, she explains, and he chose his words carefully. “He was never in hurry about his conversations,” Giannetti says.

“He was very deliberate in what he would say,” Goetz adds. Someone could ask him a direct question, but instead of giving an answer right away, he would often launch into a story.

“He would get to the answer,” he laughs, “but in a very roundabout way.”

“He was warm, nice and carried on relationships with his students after they graduated,” Giannetti says, noting she was a case in point.

“I think many look back at him as the consummate professor,” Goetz says. “He made a difference for a lot of them.”

Gifts in Herold’s name may be made to DU’s geography department, 2050 E. Iliff Ave. A memorial service will be held at 5 p.m. May 15 at Evans Chapel.

Read a tribute to Herold by University of Denver Magazine editor Chelsey Baker-Hauck, his former student and friend.

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