Professor Lawrence W. “Bill” Carstensen Jr., who devoted almost forty years of service to Virginia Tech as a faculty member and former head of the Department of Geography, has retired.

Carstensen’s teaching and research focused on Geographic Information Systems (GIS), emphasizing the use of the computer to manipulate, store, and provide data on demand, as well as the application of large databases to mapping software.

Carstensen was interested in the diversity of GIS applications, from navigating robotic vehicles across open land to positioning transmitters for wireless telecommunication systems to mapping the foraging patterns of bees in pollen collection. Of special interest was the application of GIS to problems dealing with meteorological data, and he was instrumental in the development of Virginia Tech’s meteorology degree. The program remains the only undergraduate-level meteorology program in Virginia.

Carstensen has received numerous awards and honors, many related to his work with the Virginia Geographic Alliance in developing and leading summer field experiences for K-12 teachers. He has been recognized twice by the National Council for Geographic Education, receiving the Distinguished Mentor Award in 2016 and the Distinguished Teaching Achievement Award in 2003. He has also received the Virginia Tech Alumni Award for Outreach Excellence.

“A beautiful element of what I have enjoyed throughout my career was the ability to bring a love of geography to our majors and to learn more about fields in which spatial analysis is significant,” Carstensen said. “I have learned so much over the years while serving on graduate committees and working with engineers, educators, and entomologists, as well as through committee membership on so many varied topics studied by geographers.”

Was Bill Carstensen your teacher, advisor, or mentor? Please consider a gift to the Department of Geography in his name. To discuss possibilities, contact Andrew Ickes, assistant dean of advancement, at