Political Science and Criminal Justice

In Memoriam — Willis Geer

Willis Geer

On March 2, 2015, we lost our dear friend and colleague, Willis Geer, a long-time lecturer in the Department of Political Science. A faculty member since 2007, he taught criminal justice courses on subjects including law, ethics, administration, and corrections.

Willis was born in Campbell County, Wyoming, on March 6, 1948, and was the son of Lillie (Cole) (Geer) and George and Willis “Harl” Geer. He grew up on their ranch 22 miles south of Gillette on the 4-J Road. Willis attended rural schools through grade 8 and graduated from Campbell County High School in 1966. After graduating from high school, he attended the University of Wyoming. He graduated with a B.S. in Business in 1970, earned his MBA in 1971, and his juris doctorate in 1974. Willis served in several editing positions for the Land and Water Law Review at the University Of Wyoming College Of Law from 1972 to 1974. He was the recipient of numerous scholarships and was a member of Beta Gamma Sigma, a business administration honorary, and Omicron Delta Epsilon, an economics honorary, during his undergraduate years.

After earning his juris doctorate, Willis returned to his hometown of Gillette and started a private law practice. He later served as a justice of the peace and county and prosecuting attorney for Campbell County, Wyoming, both elected positions. He also taught classes during the 1970s at the University of Wyoming, Casper College and Sheridan College. He continued his private law practice in Gillette, Wyoming, from 1974 to 1990 and 1991 to 2000. He was on the Board of Directors of the Powder River Basin Resource Council from 1997 to 1999, and the chair from 1998 to 1999. He later practiced law in Buffalo, NY, from 2000 to 2003. During his career as a lawyer, Willis was licensed in the States of Wyoming, South Dakota, California and New York.

Willis began in a second career teaching at California State University, Chico in 2007, which he thoroughly enjoyed. The courses he taught included University 101, Introduction to Criminal Justice, Introduction to Criminal Law, Criminal Justice Ethics, Justice System Administration and Corrections. He was passionate about his teaching, loved by his students, and was known for always wearing a tie in the classroom out of respect for his students.

Willis loved being outdoors and especially enjoyed being with his cats. He was an avid runner and completed numerous marathons and ultramarathons, including two six hour races and two twelve hour races. He was proud of his completion of 63 miles in twelve hours in the Presque Isle Personal Endurance Classic in Erie, PA in 2004 where he placed 5th overall. He also placed eleventh overall in the men’s division of the 2007 Northern California Ultra Marathon Series. Willis loved cooking for his friends and family and recently enjoyed perfecting his recipe for pizza on the barbeque grill. He also enjoyed visiting his grandchildren and always longed to spend more time with them.

Willis is survived by his wife, LaDona Knigge of Chico, CA, an associate professor in the Department of Geography and Planning; his son, Blaine (Lisa) Geer of Gillette, WY; his daughter, Tracey Geer of Santa Fe, NM and their mother Teresa (Davila) Skinner and their brother J.B. (Sarah) Skinner of Sheridan, WY; his stepdaughter, Rebekah Burke of Mesa, AZ; his stepson, Michael Burke of Pleasantville, NY; grandchildren: Joey, Karli, and Lainey Geer all of Gillette, and Liliana and Adriana Scott of Santa Fe, NM; great-granddaughter, Emily Geer, of Gillette; and half-brother, Jerry (Sonja) Geer, of Gillette. He is preceded in death by his parents.

Willis will be remembered for his selfless devotion to his students and colleagues, his gentle spirit, and his humility and dedication. He was known for the long hours of work that he put into his teaching and his numerous contributions to the Chico Chapter of the California Faculty Association. He arrived early, left late, and was always a positive presence in the department.

Contributions to the Willis Clay Geer Memorial Scholarship Fund for criminal justice majors are welcome. For more information, please contact the Department of Political Science.

Political Statements is the official newsletter of the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice at California State University, Chico.

With over 1,000 total majors, the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice is one of the largest departments at Chico State. Students choose courses from a rich curriculum, providing close student-faculty contact in each of the following majors of study: U.S. politics, legal studies, criminal justice, international relations, and public administration. The department also offers a Master of Public Administration and a Master of Arts in Political Science.

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