With Brussels Sprouts and Pancakes, Longtime Professor Gets Fond Farewell
GIS Program Director Ron Briggs is Retiring After 31 Years at UT Dallas
The University of Texas at Dallas is saying goodbye this summer to a man who helped put its Geospatial Information Systems program on the map. Dr. Ron Briggs, head of the GIS program, is graduating to professor emeritus status after 31 years with the University.
Colleagues paid tribute to Briggs at a June 27 luncheon, and, in a style befitting his unique tastes, he was served a meal of his favorite foods: Brussels sprouts, baby carrots, pancakes, Heinz beans and marmite.
More idiosyncratic was the condiment choice — a salsa topping that went on the pancakes and baby carrots. Briggs says he adopted the practice after he arrived in the state. “I thought that was the Texan way to do it,” he said.
A professor in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, Briggs first taught at UT Dallas in 1977 after earning his Ph.D. from Ohio State University in geography, then working six years at UT Austin.
“It’s been fun,” he said. “All the e-mails I’ve received from students have been heartening.”
A geographer by training, Briggs directed computing and information resources at the University for 13 years before helping create the interdisciplinary GIS programs.
GIS is a system for tracking data as it relates to location. It incorporates the use of global positioning and satellite-based remote sensing. Briggs has been interested in how GIS can be applied to the management of urban infrastructure and the understanding of metropolitan development patterns.
The potential of GIS is vast, with applications ranging from the obscure to the commonplace. Briggs often sees news reports that could benefit from GIS analysis. For instance, a recent newspaper report mapped foreclosures, but the report failed to account for differences in home density in various Dallas neighborhoods. The analysis needed a density measure, which GIS could have made possible, to show the number of foreclosures per 100 homes and yielding a truer picture of foreclosure concentration.
Interest in GIS also spans the social and natural sciences. UT Dallas is exceptional in the way its GIS program bridges standard degree programs and integrates different schools, such as the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science.
The University currently offers master’s and doctoral degrees in GIS, as well as a graduate certificate program.
“Ron has made major contributions to UT Dallas over the last three decades,” said EPPS Dean Brian Berry, pictured far right. “He will be missed, but we expect to be able to draw on his insights by inducing him to be more of a continuing professor and less of an emeritus.” Also pictured are (left) Dr. Hobson Wildenthal, provost and executive vice president at the University, and Dr. Briggs (center).
Dr. Briggs and his wife, Jeanne, enjoy some of his favorite foods.