Leisure World resident Tom Conger has been fascinated with geography and mountains for most of his life. He has hiked and explored mountains in many of the 50 states, and he is looking forward to sharing what he has learned in a forthcoming course of the Center for Lifelong Learning (CLL).
Tom’s course, “Physical and Cultural Geography – Mountains of the U.S. and Canada,” will delve into how mountains are created, how they wear away, how they affect the weather and climate, and how they impact such things as the biomes, water availability, and the stability of the land. Tom “argues” that mountains are not only magnificent things to see, to understand, and as important parts of our geography, but that they have dramatic effects on human activities ranging from our having to navigate around, over, or through them to travel (think of the settlers moving west in the old TV show “Wagon Train”) to impacting where we live, work, and recreate.
Indeed, mountains are a critical part of our history and have impacted the movement of humans in North America, no doubt starting with the earliest Native Americans 10-20,000 years ago. There are remarkable stories about how our mountains have been part of our more recent history, and Tom will cover many of these formative events and how mountains played a role in shaping us as a nation. Indeed, as examples of historical events Tom will discuss and how these events shaped history. Think in terms of the Lewis and Clark expedition that opened up the nation, the hardships faced by the Donner Party in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1846, or the construction of the first continental railway.
The course itself will cover many facets of mountains, and many mountains ranging from our neighboring Blue Ridge to the amazing Rockies to the spectacular, and relatively new, mountains of Hawai’i. Each week Tom will focus on mountains in different parts of the U.S., not only from the perspective of geology, but also from the perspective of human history.
Tom’s love for all things about mountains can be easily traced to his most formative years. Born in Miami, Tom’s father (a local physician) loved reading about geography and instilled his love and fascination in his youngest son. Despite being raised on the flat plains of Florida, Tom’s early fascination with mountains was strikingly reinforced when he first encountered the Blue Ridge Range at the age of 6 while visiting his great aunt and uncle who lived in an historic part of this range.
Tom received a B.S. in geography from the University of Georgia and a MA in the subject from the University of Cincinnati. While in Cincinnati, Tom also received a master’s in city planning. Putting his education to use, Tom worked as a city planner for 12 years and then ran a small life insurance company for 20 years. Yet, despite this change in profession Tom, maintained his interest and activities in city planning by being involved in zoning and related activities wherever he lived.
Tom and his wife Lois then moved to Flagstaff, AZ where he received a teaching certificate for middle and high school. This led to his teaching Earth Science (=physical geography) on the local Navajo Indian reservation and then various geography courses at Northern Arizona University. Tom likes to mention that while he was living out west he visited every mountain range in Nevada and Arizona, and he became particularly fascinated with how the mountains played roles in Native American culture. Tom and Lois moved to Leisure World in 2011 so that they could be close to daughter Paula, son-in-law James and grandsons Julian (6) and Miles (4).