Search by Name
Search by Name
Dr. Thomas J. Wilbanks
1938 - 2017
Berry Highland Memorial
Knoxville, TN
Dr. Thomas J. Wilbanks

Knoxville, TN

Dr. Thomas J. Wilbanks, age 78, a groundbreaking scientist and a devoted family man, passed away Sunday, January 29, 2017. He will be greatly missed. Dr. Wilbanks was a Corporate Fellow at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where he had worked since 1977 and conducted research and published extensively on sustainable development, energy and environmental technology and policy, responses to global climate change, and the role of geographical scale. He was a president of the Association of American Geographers (AAG), one of only three nonacademics to serve as the president in its more than 100 years, and authored, co-authored, or co-edited 9 books and more than 100 journal articles and book chapters. Dr. Wilbanks' highest honor was to be formally recognized as a co-laureate for the 2007 Nobel Prize for Peace, in recognition of his work on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He was also a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and was awarded numerous other honors in his field. He helped lead the first comprehensive US national energy plan and led more than 70 projects in 40 developing countries worldwide. Born in Texarkana AR, Dr. Wilbanks received his undergraduate degree from Trinity University, where he was named Distinguished Alumnus in 2013-14. He received his Ph.D. from Syracuse University. Dr. Wilbanks served his country in the U.S. Army, where he was an Airborne Ranger and a military intelligence officer. Before coming to Oak Ridge, he was a professor at Syracuse University and chaired the Geography Department at Oklahoma University.

He was predeceased by his parents, Thomas Winston Wilbanks and Elsie Thompson; and is survived by his wife of 57 years, Kathryn Jordan Wilbanks; brother, Dana Winston Wilbanks; sister, Beth Wilbanks Robb; children, Kathryn Lee Wilbanks, Lisa Wilbanks Rentenbach, and John Thompson Wilbanks; daughter-in-law, Carolina Almeida Antunes Rossini; and grandchildren, Augusta Belle Rentenbach, John Conoley Rentenbach, and Noah Rossini Wilbanks.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to pay for the medical expenses of those who cannot afford care at UT Medical Center. Please direct donations to UT Medical Center, Department of Pastoral Care (attention Steve Sexton), 1924 Alcoa Highway, Knoxville TN 37920 or email [email protected]

Published by Knoxville News Sentinel on Feb. 5, 2017.
To plant trees in memory, please visit the Sympathy Store.
To offer your sympathy during this difficult time, you can now have memorial trees planted in a National Forest in memory of your loved one.
Funeral services provided by:
Berry Highland Memorial
Sponsored by Berry Highland Memorial.
Add a Message

Not sure what to say?

22 Entries
Tom was one of the true greats. I feel honored to have known and worked with him.
John Shonder
July 28, 2017
Tom was second reader on my thesis and served on my Oral's board.He was instrumental in allowing me to complete my thesis before military service called. He always had time for me and offered many useful suggestions. I was deeply saddened to learn of his passing through Syracuse's Maxwell magazine
Peter Boice
July 19, 2017
It was an honor and pleasure to work with Dr. Wilbanks (Tom) over three decades. We implemented innovative projects and activities in the US and abroad. I have fond memories of Tom's kindness, humor, intellectual acumen, personal drive, and significant professional and personal accomplishments. His contributions had a profound worldwide impact. A scholar and a gentlemen that will be dearly missed.
Robert Dixon
March 20, 2017
Tom was a wonderful person. I met Tom in the 1970s when he was beginning his career at Oak Ridge. He was one of the earliest supporters and architects of the Applied Geography Conferences. I asked him to serve on the first Board of Directors of those conferences and he accepted immediately. It was because of Tom that Oakridge played such a prominent role in t AGCs. His credibility brought many other attendees.
Tom remained a life long friend and Norah and I are saddened by his passing.

John W. Frazier
Binghamton, NY
March 18, 2017
Tom was always a pleasure to work with, a mentor to many, and the closest to a Renaissance man that I have met. He also was very much a gentleman and friend. He will be sorely missed.
David Schmalzer
February 20, 2017
Tom was a strong advocate of professional geographers at ORNL. His leadership resulted in the creation of a large corps of spatial analysts who have contributed to many aspects of the Laboratory's R&D mission. He also developed a strong research portfolio focusing on climate change mitigation and adaptation, with many early and widely recognized contributions. His IPCC work, in particular, has been internationally recognized. He paved the way for other researcher who now continue to follow in his footsteps. He will be greatly missed and well remembered by his friends and colleagues alike.

Marilyn Brown and Frank Southworth--two PhD geographers who came to ORNL thanks, in part, to Tom's support.
Marilyn Brown
February 17, 2017
My deepest sympathy.
Lillian Wilbanks Cammack
February 14, 2017
I am shocked and saddened by Tom's loss. I consider him to have been a mentor and supporter, and always looked forward to seeing him at AAG meetings.

My sincere condolences to family and friends.
Lisa MB Harrington
February 10, 2017
Tom was always a supporter, mentor and friend to me. My professional life has been immensely enriched by his sage advice over more than 4 decades. My profound sympathies to all his family. Know that he changed for the better many, many lives. That is just one of the benefits of his being with us for 78 years.
Mike Pasqualetti
February 7, 2017
My deepest condolences to the family. Tom was one of the good guys in this world...he will be missed.
Deanne Brice
February 7, 2017
My heartfelt condolences to Tom's family. He was a very resourceful man in his career. I am very grateful for the help he gave me in pursuit of my career goals.
Willis Shem
February 7, 2017
My deepest sympathy. Tom was a pleasure to work with. He was always so grateful for helping him. My thoughts and prayers are with you all.
Beth Bailey
February 6, 2017
Please accept my condolences to the entire family on Tom's passing. Wishing you much comfort in his long life of service to humanity and science. He will be missed.
'Debo Oladosu
February 6, 2017
Tom was a friend, mentor, and valued colleague to many of us in the Environmental Sciences Division. He set an example for others to follow...
Stan Wullschleger
February 6, 2017
I benefitted greatly from his friendship and intellectual curiosity. A colleague with many insights into a diverse set of scientific disciples. A respected scholar.

We shared many laughs together. He will be missed.
Mike Farrell
February 6, 2017
Tom had a significant positive impact on the climate science community, and will be greatly missed. His family can be very proud of his accomplishments and him as person.
Jack Fellows
February 6, 2017
He was wonderfully kind to me at a crucial moment in my career, and that made all the difference.
Tony Patt
February 6, 2017
A highly valued and respected colleague, my mentor at ORNL, a beloved friend for me and my children, Tom is fondly remembered. His smile and supportive and helpful insights will be dearly missed.
Keith Kline
February 5, 2017
Kay, John and Lisa,

Bob and I are so sorry to learn about Tom. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of you during this difficult time
Dottie Woodruff
February 5, 2017
Godspeed my sweet Dad! Blessed to have had you for 46 years.
Lisa Rentenbach
February 5, 2017
a loved one
February 3, 2017
Kay, Lisa, John. My most heartfelt and deepest sympathy on Tom's passing. As you talk about him and remember him in the days, months and years to come you are fulfilling what the Greeks say at someone's passing,
"May his memory be eternal."
Tina Peroulas
January 31, 2017
Showing 1 - 22 of 22 results