Robert G. LeBlanc, 1930-2001
University of Maine-Orono, Emeritus
Each of us who knew Robert LeBlanc knew him differently. Some of us
knew him as a geographer. Others as a scholar of Franco-Americans. Still
others as the Franco-American he was. Most of us also knew him as a friend.
All of us felt lessened when we learned that he was on the United Airlines
Flight 175 that crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
He was en route to a geography conference in Los Angeles. With his itchy
geographer feet, he and his wife were ticketed for a trip to Argentina after
that conference, and had planned visits to India and Sweden in 2002.
Robert LeBlanc was born on October 28, 1930 and grew up in the
Franco-American city of Nashua, New Hampshire. He was a late arrival to
higher education and academia. After serving in the U.S. Air Force during
the Korean War as a radar technician, LeBlanc attended the University of
New Hampshire, graduating as a history major in 1959. Then, in 1962, he
took a master of arts degree in geography at the University of Minnesota.
Few who know his work will be surprised that his thesis title was "Acadian
Migrations." His Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Wisconsin in 1968
was entitled "The Location of Manufacturing in New England in the 19th
Century." His dissertation was published under that title in 1969 by the
Geography Publications at Dartmouth College. He had already joined the
geography faculty of the University of New Hampshire in 1963 and he
would teach there until his retirement in 1998.
Robert LeBlanc was a pioneer in studying the connections and conÂ
trasts between French-speaking Canadians and Franco-Americans. These
themes dominated his work, whether it was examining the movement of
Acadians from Canada to the United States, the varied reaction to World
War I by French-speaking Canadians and French-speaking Americans, the
willingness or reluctance of French-speaking Americans to repatriate to
Canada, the lure of Quebec higher education for Franco-Americans or the
effect of that education on their values.
From the beginning of his career, LeBlanc became and remained a
major authority on the Acadian migrations of the eighteenth century, the
subject of his 1962 master's thesis. He published the thesis results in the
Proceedings of Minnesota Academy of Science that same year. He modified
that article for "Les Migrations Acadiennes," Cahiers de GÃ©ographie de QuÃ©bec
(Dec. 1967, 523-41). The English version of that article, the one most of us
know, appeared as "The Acadian Migrations" in the Canadian Geographical
Journal (July 1970,10-19).
The article has remained so influential because LeBlanc showed how
nuanced the Acadian expulsion and subsequent migrations were. He left to
others the British motives for the expulsion, before examining four phases
of the migrations. First was Le Grand DÃ©rangement of 1755-57 during which
QuÃ©bec Studies, Volume 33, Spring/Summer 2002