Professor James B. “Jim” Campbell is retiring after 46 years as a professor in the Department of Geography. He served as a teacher, mentor, department chair, and researcher in the fields of remote sensing and spatial analysis.

While Campbell was initially hired to teach physical geography, he became one of the pioneer researchers in utilizing remote sensing technology to tackle broad environmental challenges in soil and landscape variability, land use, image processing and analysis, and coastal reclamation. He has collaborated on research topics as diverse as tick disease spread, urban ecosystem processes, and the impacts of drought and war on agricultural practices.

Campbell has received numerous awards for his research and teaching, including the Outstanding Service Award from the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, a Lifetime Achievement Award from AmericaView, and the college’s Undergraduate Alumni Advising Award.

When he learned that his former professor was retiring, Tom Gathright ’83 reached out to describe how Campbell has been a generational touchstone to him as well as his son, a current Hokie. He wrote, “I am thankful that seven years ago, Dr. Campbell personally gave me the affirmation I needed to finally pursue geography as a viable career and to be reminded often by his example that it is a lifetime pursuit as well. Tenure may have been redefined this past semester when our son Thomas found himself taking Dr. Campbell's Remote Sensing course, which was one of the first classes I had taken from him 41 years ago.”

When asked to reflect on his time at the university, Campbell shared how the fortuitous decision was made to join CNRE and praised the resulting collaborations, stating, “Over time, geography faculty developed interests in forestry, natural resources, wildlife, meteorology, field research, and other areas. Such relationships have greatly enriched our college, students, faculty, staff, and graduates.”

Was Jim Campbell your teacher, advisor, or mentor? Please consider a gift to the Department of Geography in his name. To learn more, contact Julia Allen, assistant dean of advancement, at