AAG Honors Esri Executive Bill Derrenbacher for Lifetime Achievement

A leader and driving force in modern day applied geography, Bill Derrenbacher has played a significant role in the proliferation of GIS worldwide.

Redlands, California—Bill Derrenbacher, Esri executive adviser, was awarded the Association of American Geographers (AAG) James R. Anderson Medal of Honor at the AAG Annual Meeting in Chicago on April 25, 2015. The highest honor conferred by the AAG Applied Geography Specialty Group, the medal recognizes highly distinguished service to the profession of geography.

“To be recognized by the illustrious members of the AAG is a tremendous honor,” said Derrenbacher. “The evolution of GIS for applied geography has been the work of the many geographers who have been able to turn data into information that is used for real-world understanding. I am grateful for the opportunity to have been part of their collective efforts.”

A pioneer in geoanalytics, Derrenbacher has played a significant role in the global proliferation of GIS technology. Since joining Esri in the mid-1970s, he has been a driving force in the company’s incredible success. He participated in the evolution of the fundamental ArcGIS platform that is now used by more than one million people around the world.

The breadth of Derrenbacher’s achievements is extensive, with tangible contributions in government, science, and industry. As the director of the Esri Professional Services Group, he has participated in and overseen thousands of applied geography projects ranging from small environmental studies to national and global efforts. He has led a group of more than 600 experts in the design and implementation of multiple GIS projects in the fields of land information, forestry, marketing, utility infrastructure, military operations support, disaster response, advanced logistics, and many more.

Perhaps Derrenbacher’s most visionary accomplishment was when he and his team devised the modern data format standard for the Defense Mapping Agency (now the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency [NGA]) digital vector map products. This standard made it possible for Esri to develop the first global GIS database. Derrenbacher and his team used this database to create the first GIS-based mapping solution for global topography mapping, the Digital Chart of the World. This became the starting point for Esri’s initial digital data products and, eventually, the data content now developed and maintained by Esri in ArcGIS Online.

Derrenbacher’s work has enabled users to share GIS data initially between computers, then across the Internet, and eventually across platforms that serve businesses as well as local, federal, and international agencies.

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