It is with incredible sorrow that I write to share the news that we lost Neil Smith in the early hours of this morning. He had been hospitalized on Wednesday afternoon with organ failures, and despite some moments of hope, could not greet another day with us. Words cannot describe this sudden tragedy. Neil was larger than life, brilliant, an inspiration and loved by so many.
I will provide the CPCP community with further updates as they are available. We invite you to share your thoughts below.
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Neil was–among many things–a true historian of geography and a generous human being.
I will miss your passionate mind, and our exchanges on Bowman and Gottmann.
Twenty-five years of work on the biography of Isaiah Bowman shall last for long.
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The Geographical Sciences National Committee of the Royal Irish Academy recently expressed its sadness at the passing of Professor Neil Smith of CUNY. As one of the most important figures in human geography world-wide, whose support for the National University of Ireland, Galway, was highly valued, the Committee would appreciate you passing on its condolences to his friends, colleagues and students.
Professor Patrick Duffy
Chair, Geographical Sciences Committee
Royal Irish Academy
gOODBY MY FRIEND. yOU WILL BE MISSED.
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I only heard about the passing of Neil and I am in total shock. Neil was one of the best professor I had in graduate school. My deepest sympathy to his family.
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Neil took me aside one day 25 years ago and the kind advice he gave me I’ve followed ever since, always remembering just what he said.
It is with a deep sense of sorrow that I write to say ‘thank you’ Neil and sorry you
withdrew from the Frankfurt conference at the last moment.
My gratitude to Neil stems from when I first met him in Hungary many years
ago, where he invited me to write a guest editorial on the meaning and scope
of critical thinking, giving me a free hand to conceptulaise it as a kind of
thinking that, far from being entrenched in any particular shape or form, spans
continents, cultures and politics, towards the fulfillment of human happiness
and friendship. My sorrow comes from not seeing him and a number of other
colleagues and friends in Frankfurt, where old debates, old friendships and old
memories were re-visited.
My even deeper sorrow will forever be mine alone. I was just about to write to
Neil and some other colleagues and friends when an e-mail brought news of his
Instead, I dedicate to him an extract from an ancient poem, which I have always
found soothing at such times:
In search of Wisdom,
I was always bold;
There were few secrets,
That I couldn’t unfold;
And yet, I found out
That I know nothing;
Although I am 72 years old.
In my childhood,
To a teacher I went;
My later days, as a teacher I spent;
Guess what will befall us in the end?
From earth we rose and to earth we shall be sent.
One breath divides faith from disbelief,
One breath divides doubt from belief,
Enjoy this one breath of your life,
That’s your existence,
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I will miss my brother of consciousness and commitment. In addition to being a brilliant theorist, Marxist and geographer, Neil was also a genuine activist and human being. We at the Harlem Tenants Council regarded Neil as an unflinching comrade in the struggle against gentrification. No matter how small the venue, Neil was there for the Harlem community when called upon. I will also miss Neil as a mentor. I could still hear him saying, “I would take that idea and turn it around.” Yes, Neil, you got me: I am an idealist. I will continue to work on that, promise. 🙂
Though I barely knew him, Neil was supportive of me as I was finishing up my dissertation. I attended several of his talks. He was dynamic and humorous. This is an enormous loss. It’s raining in Tompkins Square.
Neil was the outside reader for my dissertation and provided much courage, insight, and strength as I grappled with a topic and persons much grander than I. I called him a true feminist and he chuckled and blushed but then thanked me heartily. I recently deleted a large bulk of emails archived from that project and am now sorry not to be able to retrieve a few notes of his great humor and encouragement! Neil, I will imagine you saying, “You go girl! Tackle the bad boys!” – Love, Kathleen