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Fall 2002
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Oration

During the ceremony at which Esri President Jack Dangermond was presented with an honorary doctor of science degree from City University, London, England (see "Jack Dangermond Awarded an Honorary Degree by City University"), Professor Jonathan Raper, head of the Geographic Information Science Group at City University, read the following oration:

"Honorary degrees are awarded for exceptional achievement, but seldom can a degree of this university have been awarded to an individual whose achievements have spanned the globe in quite the way as those of Jack Dangermond.

"Brought up in a family of market gardeners in the small town of Redlands, California, between Los Angeles and Palm Springs, Jack Dangermond has built a global software Business from this unusual base. After training as a landscape architect at Harvard University, Jack founded a private company 33 years ago called Environmental Systems Research Institute--Esri for short. It was to develop digital mapping software for use in landscape design and environmental science. Today Esri has a turnover of approximately $427 million. Esri directly employs more than 2,000 people. It has more than 100,000 customers and more than one million users of its software worldwide. Its Business is growing at approximately 20 percent per annum.

"What software is this you may ask? The answer is geographic information system, or GIS, software. Though you may not know it (yet!), GIS is at the heart of your in-car navigation system; it is behind the systems that manage land and property transactions; it helps route ambulances to accidents; it keeps track of oil spills and weather fronts; and it enables us to ask 'what if?' questions--among many other things. Among you today are graduates of the Master's in Geographic Information from the Department of Information Science who have studied how to use this new technology and who are now embarking on careers in GIS. Inevitably, some of you will soon be working for Jack at Esri somewhere in the world!

"However, today we not only honor the man as a successful entrepreneur and as the leader of a highly international and talented team but we also mark the manner of his achievement. For Jack Dangermond is a globally known figure among governments and campaign groups for his advocacy of geography as a power to order society and articulate its debates over land, resources, and people. He has campaigned to keep geography in school curricula as a central part of a modern literacy; he has advised NASA in its mission to observe earth from space; and he has put powerful tools in the hands of environmental, social, and medical researchers through outstanding software innovation. He is a committed environmentalist and has personally supported many causes, especially in developing countries such as the International Center for Mountain Development in Kathmandu, Nepal. He has also been a tireless advocate for the improvement of access to government data worldwide. He has led the initiative to create GIS Day, a day of campaigning each year (on November 20, this year) when organizations using GIS open their doors to the public (especially to schoolchildren) to show what they do using GIS, and why. The first of these attracted more than one million people in 60 countries.

"These initiatives reflect the value that Jack has always placed on education and research. Accordingly, Esri software is now used in more than 3,000 universities worldwide and in 20,000 schools. It is by far the most widely used GIS in the British university sector. To support this activity, Jack has invested heavily in a wide range of publications and online materials for free or low-cost access by students. It is for all these commitments and values that we honor him here today.

"Through all this, Jack has remained grounded. While he is a leading member of a global Business community and a civic figure in his home community of Redlands, California, he is also a modest man on first name terms with an astonishing number of people whether they are national political leaders or students of GIS. His enthusiasm and commitment are infectious--as the queues to meet him at his 11,000-delegate Esri User Conferences testify. Today we honor Jack Dangermond as someone who is known--for all the right reasons--all over the world as a passionate, philanthropic, and determined Business leader who respects and supports the community in which he works.

"Vice-chancellor, I have the honor of presenting Jack Dangermond to you as a most worthy individual for the award of the doctor of science by City University, London."

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