Alice Rechlin Perkins, 70, a leading figure in geography education who in 1994 became the first woman to hold the title of “geographer” at the National Geographic Society in Washington, died of cancer June 1 at her home in Fairfax.
As geographer at the society, founded in 1888, she oversaw the completion of maps and directed geographic research.
She joined National Geographic in 1986 as a respected academic. In the late 1980s, as a cartographic supervisor, Dr. Perkins oversaw the completion of the society’s sixth-edition world atlas during the turbulence of the break-up of the Soviet Union and the reunification of Germany. Many of the 150,000 place names indexed in the atlas changed even as it went to press, leaving Dr. Perkins with long hours of meticulous research.
Dr. Perkins officiated during the society-sponsored geography bees in the 1990s and also helped initiate a National Geographic program for grade schools. She retired from the society in 1997 but continued until recently as a consultant with the research committee that approves grants for National Geographic expeditions.
Alice Theodora Merten Rechlin Perkins was born in Teaneck, N.J. She received a bachelor’s degree from Valparaiso University, a master’s degree in geography from Northwestern University and a geography doctorate from the University of Michigan. She taught at Valparaiso from the 1950s to 1986 and was chairman of its geography department. Among her research interests was the spatial organization of the Amish.
Dr. Perkins had served on the boards of the Association of American Geographers, the American Geographical Society and the National Council for Geographic Education and was president of Gamma Theta Upsilon, the geographical honor society.