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George Macinko

Dr. George Macinko (1931-2017) lived a life full of adventure, achievement, and joy.  A native of a small coal mining town called Nesquehoning, Pennsylvania, George was a star athlete in his youth and loved athletics into his old age. He briefly attended Columbia University but was forced to stop when his father became sick with black lung disease. A chance encounter led to an opportunity to attend the University of Idaho on a scholarship and so George made his way to the west. He studied philosophy at Idaho and along the way met Mary Ann, whom he would marry in 1954.

Though George was offered opportunities to play professional football (including the Green Bay Packers), the Korean War blocked that path. In his undergrad at University of Idaho, George had been in the Air Force ROTC, and so after graduation, he served at the Air Force base in Salinas, Kansas during the final years of the Korean War.  By the time he got out of the service, five years had gone by and his chance at a professional football career had passed.

So instead George moved to the University of Michigan where he would go on to earn his Masters and then Ph.D.  Dr. Macinko’s scholarly work then and throughout his career emphasized environmental conservation, the relationship between expanding cities and surrounding rural landscapes, and water resources. Over decades as an active researcher, he published articles about the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project, the urban fringe, and wheat farming in Washington.
After teaching at a couple of universities, Dr. Macinko came to the CWU in 1967 and his career really took off. In 1979, Dr. Macinko became the first faculty member at Central to receive a Distinguished Professor Award for Research. That was one among many awards he received. In 2014, CWU’s College of the Sciences recognized George as a lifelong Faculty/Staff Science Supporter. 

Dr. Macinko was a pioneer in the development of Environmental Studies at CWU and other institutions in the US. George taught a variety of courses with Physical Geography being his mainstay. Dr. Macinko began phased retirement in 1996 after which he taught a course per quarter for a while.

He remained an active researcher and a familiar presence in the department. And his athletic prowess continued to draw attending. He won national and world master titles in weightlifting after retirement, including the gold medal for his age and weight class at the 2002 World master’s Games in Melbourne, Australia.

Dr. George Macinko was an incredible teacher, scholar, and mentor.  He was a cornerstone of CWU’s Geography Department; and his contributions, honor and legacy will forever be an important part to our story.

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