Canute Vander Meer ’50

He was born and grew up in Xiamen, China to missionary parents William and Alma (Mathiesen) VanderMeer. He enjoyed his childhood despite the wars going on around him and being held in a Japanese concentration camp in Shanghai in 1942, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Canute and his family boarded the Italian ship S.S. Conte Verde, in June of 1942 for a 27 day journey from Shanghai to Singapore and then on to Lourenco Marques, Mozambique. In Lourenco Marques they boarded the Swedish Red Cross “Mercy ship” the M.S. Gripsholm to circle the globe and arrive “home” in the port of New York City August 25, 1942. Canute attended Blair Academy in Blairstown, NJ for two years before enrolling in Hope College in Holland, Michigan at the age of 16, where he graduated with a BA in History in 1950. He served two years in the U.S. Army stationed at Fort Sherman in the Panama Canal Zone. After being Honorably Discharged he attended the University of Michigan Graduate school, obtaining his PhD in Geography in 1962.

Canute married Joyce Margaret Green of Chicago, Illinois in 1955 and they lived together in Chelsea, Michigan. In 1958 Canute received a Ford Foundation Foreign Area Training Fellowship to complete his doctoral dissertation research on Cebu island, the Philippines. Joyce and Canute enjoyed living for a year in the Philippines. Thereafter they began their long journey home to the U.S. In 1959 they spent two months traveling in Southeast Asia, and a month exploring Europe on their PanAm flight around the world. They flew on their first jet airplane, an Air France Caravelle jet from Athens to Rome. 1961-1972 Canute worked as an Assistant Professor of Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, serving as Acting Chairperson from 1970-1971. In 1962, as a delegate of the National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council, Dr. VanderMeer read his paper at a conference of Geographers held in Kuala-Lumpur, Malaysia. He directed a Peace Corps training program which prepared volunteers for service in India in the fall of 1963. In 1964 he received a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation for one year of research on the island of Taiwan. His academic research included interviewing farmers in Taiwan and Southern China about their irrigation water and land assignments. He had a long academic career as a Professor of Geography and Geoscience, for 11 years at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and 22 years at the University of Vermont, serving as Chairperson from 1973-1985. While at UVM Dr. VanderMeer was also honored to serve as Faculty Ombudsperson from 1989-1992. These years were interspersed with visiting professorships at the University of Hawaii, Honolulu, the University of the Philippines, Los Banos, Philippines, California State University, Hayward, and at the Institute of Geoscience, University of Tsukuba, Japan. Canute was a longstanding member of the Association of American Geographers, and the International Rice Research Institute. He was the former Vice President of the Shanghai American School Association, and he enjoyed reunions with “old China Hands”. He was an avid tennis player, and loved putting together jigsaw puzzles and playing cards in his later years.

He is survived by his wife of 68 years Joyce VanderMeer; his daughters Kemrey and her husband Todd Butler, of Williston, FL; and Tamsen and her husband Clark Christensen of Atlanta, GA. He was predeceased by his brother Paul VanderMeer, and survived by Paul’s twin sons Gregory and William VanderMeer. Canute was a loving husband, father, brother and grandfather and will be greatly missed by family, friends, and those whose lives he touched around the world.

At the request of the family, there will be no services. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to The William VanderMeer Memorial Scholarship Fund at Hope College, Holland, Michigan. To donate online go to:

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