Finding his place in the world
By Anne Craig, Communications Officer
The gift of a simple globe to a seven-year-old boy has led to a 35-year career in the geography department at Queen’s University. That storied career has led to George Lovell being recognized by the Canadian Association of Geographers (CAG) with an Award for Scholarly Distinction in Geography. Dr. Lovell was also recently elected president of the American Society for Ethnohistory (ASE).
These two honours are something that would have made his mother, who gave him that globe as a Christmas present, proud.
“She passed away 14 years ago,” says Dr. Lovell, who was constantly pushed by her to achieve great things after coming to Canada from Scotland in 1973. “I’m truly honoured by these awards, which I’m sure would have pleased my mum.”
Arriving in Canada as a graduate student, Dr. Lovell pursued his love of Latin America at the University of Alberta. He earned both his master’s and doctorate degrees at that institution before being offered a one-year, non-renewable position at Queen’s in 1979. That turned into a tenure-track position in 1986, after a few hardscrabble years. Now Dr. Lovell is a fixture in the geography department. “I’m lucky still to have the first academic job I applied for,” he adds with a laugh.
Dr. Lovell’s research focuses on colonial experiences and patterns of Indigenous survival in Central America, the fate of Mayan peoples in Guatemala in particular. Besides teaching at Queen’s, Dr. Lovell is also a visiting professor in Latin American history at Universidad Pablo de Olavide in Seville, Spain. Decades of research have led to the presidency of the ASE, an association dedicated to creating an inclusive picture of the histories of native groups in the Americas, and elsewhere.
“Things in life have a way of converging. My first experience attending a conference and presenting a paper was at an ASE conference in October 1979. Now being named president of the same organization is a fitting turn,” he says.
The award from the CAG, a body committed to the promotion of geography in education and research, acknowledges Dr. Lovell’s 35 years of contributions to the field.
With all his successes, Dr. Lovell admits that job overtures have come his way throughout the years, but he hasn’t wavered from his commitment to Queen’s.
“I’ve always felt at home here,” he says. “For me, the best thing about the job is the students. We get exceptional students who have a passion for learning. So I get to hang out with great young people. It’s fun.”