John Ankele

John Ankele – AAG Honoree

John Ankele was a producer of radio and TV programming during the 1960s who utilized mass media to empower faith communities. Additionally, he collaborated with political activists in South Africa, as well as being actively engaged in social justice causes.

He joined forces with his wife Ann Macksoud to form Old Dog Documentaries, a production company that makes films about environmental issues. Most of their films are self-distributed.

Early Life and Education

John was raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with an affinity for history and tennis. Additionally, he had a great fascination for maps and artists from all around the world – particularly those from Africa and Asia.

After graduating high school, he studied European History at LaSalle College in Philadelphia before earning his Master of Arts in Education from the University of Pennsylvania.

Later, his focus shifted to working with urban under-resourced youth and families. He conducted workshops, led leadership teams, and trained non-profit professionals on issues of equity.

He reconnected with Gregory Bateson, studied systems theory and constructivism, and learned consulting theory and practice at Harvard. Subsequently, he became a practitioner and consultant in adult learning, group process, ambivalent learning environments, as well as complex change management in schools.

Professional Career

He has successfully transitioned his broadcasting experience into a career as senior vice president at an influential leadership development firm. Together with his wife Diana, they split their time between Manhattan and the Hudson Valley; managing to balance a hectic multiple family situation despite numerous hand cramps along the way. Their greatest challenge lay in keeping two young children occupied while still entertaining them; thus far their efforts have yielded mixed results.

Achievements and Honors

AAG Honors are awards given to AAG members to recognize outstanding accomplishments in research & scholarship, teaching, education, service to the discipline and public service outside academia – as well as lifetime achievement. Nominations come from a range of sources such as specialty groups and affinity groups, department chairs, AAG members and the general public.

AAG Honors are presented for achievements that demonstrate excellence in geography and distinguish a group of individuals from others in their profession. AAG encourages nominations from people who do not fit the typical scholar profile, such as women, trans/non-binary individuals and underrepresented minority groups. Eligibility requires that both the nominee and group adhere to AAG’s Professional Conduct Policy.

Personal Life

John Ankele has been an integral part of the Shambhala Buddhist community for nearly forty years, as well as being an accomplished documentary filmmaker with his company Old Dog Documentaries. They have produced and directed award-winning films that explore both human experience and our collective struggles.

He was a pioneer in the use of mass media to bring about social change. He collaborated with and trained political activists on how to utilize mass media for civil rights advocacy and opposition to the Vietnam War, among other issues. His iconic photographs of Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination in Memphis, Tennessee were seen around the globe. Additionally, his documentaries on independent African churches and China’s underground church movement showcase his documentary-making talents amid state suppression of religious beliefs and practices.

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