U loses alumnus to terrorist attacks; passenger on Flight 175

Robyn Repya

University alumnus Robert LeBlanc was aboard United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston to Los Angeles when it plowed into the south tower of the World Trade Center in New York last Tuesday. He was 70.

LeBlanc was a professor emeritus at the University of New Hampshire; he served as a chairman in the geography department for 10 years before his 1999 retirement. He was at UNH for almost 37 years.

He also was an expert in the cultural and historical aspects of Franco-American communities in New England. He won the 1988 New England Geography Society Distinguished Service Award, according to the UNH Web site.

He remained active at UNH even after his retirement as a counselor at the school’s Center for International Education, encouraging students to travel and explore the world.

LeBlanc received a doctorate in geography from the University in 1963.

LeBlanc’s wife Andrea said her husband had fond memories of the University.

“Minnesota was a huge part of his life and a very positive one, but then, his whole life was positive,” she said.

Andrea LeBlanc described her husband as an integral part of their community – a community she said has been extremely supportive during this difficult time.

University alumnus Fred Lukermann, LeBlanc’s graduate adviser, said he remembers LeBlanc as a very good student.

Lukermann said he and LeBlanc stayed in contact through annual geographer meetings.

“The distinguishing characteristic of the department is the close-knit relationships of faculty and grad students,” Lukermann said.

John Adams, geography department chairman, said he last visited with LeBlanc at a May department celebration.

“He really enjoyed connecting with everyone here,” he said, adding that he didn’t think it would be the last time they’d meet face to face.

Adams and LeBlanc attended graduate school together. Adams said he remembers LeBlanc as a leader and an exceptional student in the history of geographical thought.

Everett Smith, a former professor at the University of Oregon, said he and LeBlanc have been friends since their days together at graduate school.

Smith said that LeBlanc was passionate about teaching and loved his students. LeBlanc also loved to travel, Smith said.

He said LeBlanc wanted to really learn about the people and places he visited. He said LeBlanc, who was on his way to see California, died doing what he loved to do.

“He’s been everywhere I can think of in the world,” Smith said.

LeBlanc also led trips abroad through a UNH Interhostel program. He was planning a trip to Argentina for the end of this month in addition to a January trip to India with his wife.

Marilyn Hoskin, dean of UNH’s College of Liberal Arts, said LeBlanc’s love for travel is directly related to his profession.

“He was a geographer living his discipline.”

 

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