Professor of geography passes away at 78

Charles S. Sargent, ASU Professor Emeritus of geography

Charles S. Sargent, professor emeritus of geography, who researched the evolution of frontiers and the growth of towns and cities, including Phoenix, passed away Feb. 3. He was 78.

Sargent taught geography at Arizona State Unversity between 1971 and 1993 – specializing in urban geography and Latin America. He was known by his colleagues, students and friends for his outgoing personality, love of fine food, and deep knowledge of places, language and music.

“Not only did he love food, he taught a popular course on food and drink – a masterful, engaging geography of regions and countries through analysis of food and drink evident in cultures,” said fellow ASU professor emeritus Tony Brazel.

A popular instructor on campus, Sargent frequently drew large enrollments for his courses. Students respected his far-ranging knowledge and enjoyed his lively lectures, and weren’t deterred by a reputation for tough exams and grading.

As a speaker of French, Spanish, German and Italian, he had a fascination with languages and with place names.

In 1988, when the Association of American Geographers held its national convention in Phoenix, each meeting participant received a copy of "Metro Phoenix," a book Sargent edited and, in large part, wrote. The text described the development of Arizona’s urban system and the evolution of the Phoenix area from its founding to the present.

Sargent’s analysis and writing on the evolution of the Phoenix metropolitan area became the foundation for much subsequent work.

For 12 years after retiring from ASU, Sargent spent several months a year on cruise ships giving lectures and traveling the world. Later, he continued to travel the world with his partner Martha Spruell while filling his mind and shelves with books, and his ears with classical music.

At home in Scottsdale, he nurtured plants and dogs and was active in his homeowners’ association.

“He was outgoing, entertaining, could converse on almost any subject, and loved sharing his sought-after advice on where to go and what to eat the world over,” said friend Nancy Dallett.

Sargent completed his bachelors’ degree at the University of Wyoming, and earned his master's and doctorate degrees from the University of California at Berkeley. His dissertation focused on Buenos Aires and resulted in a book, "The Spatial Evolution of Greater Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1870-1930."

Sargent is survived by a sister and brother, as well as Martha Spruell, his partner in life and love for his last 20 years.

Nancy Dallett of Tillman Veteran's Center and Malcolm Comeaux, professor emeritus of geography, contributed significantly to this story.