Surveying Profession's Top 25

Over the past 12 months, we've asked you, our readers, to tell us who you think were the 25 most influential individuals in the surveying community over the last 25 years. And you responded; we received nearly 100 documented nominations.

The 25 we highlight in this 25th anniversary issue of Professional Surveyor Magazine may not conform with your top 25, but understand this was a real challenge to our staff and the industry leaders we asked to assist us in the process.

As the nominations rolled in, we divided them into groupings we called innovators, academics, practical educators, spokespersons/consciousness raisers, and favorite sons. Many of our nominees were academics, but we did not wish to overload our final selection with any one category. So, although your favorite educator may not be on this list, understand that we could not include everyone.

We also added some weight to individuals who not only made a difference locally, but nationally, or industry wide. Some of you may also note that some obvious leaders are not on here because while they made a difference, their impact was not over the past 25 years, the life span of our magazine, which was one of our requirements. Some of the nominees had a significant impact before we came into being, and yet others will have an impact on the coming quarter century. You'll have to wait to read about the latter in our next celebration.

We hope you enjoy meeting and getting to know our top 25. We know we did. Thanks for all your assistance and enthusiasm.

Jerry Broadus

As a licensed surveyor and attorney, Jerry Broadus has had his own practice since 1989, serving as vice president of Geometrix Surveying in Putallup, Washington. The firm offers consulting services to attorneys and the general public in land development matters involving difficult boundary disputes and liability cases. Geometrix has prepared material for surveyor negligence cases across the country; provided surveys of forest, urban, waterfront, harbor, and airport boundaries in Washington; and has prepared unique materials such as a report to Congress for the settlement of a Federal boundary dispute.

Beyond that, Broadus has taught advanced surveying classes for the Federal Bureau of Land Management and has given legal seminars for surveyors and attorneys across the country. Much of this comes through Cadastral Consulting, which provides continuing education for the real estate and surveying markets and has become the single largest source of speakers at professional surveying conferences.

Curtis Brown

Having gained 40 years of experience as a land surveyor in private practice and a principal in the surveying-engineering firm of Daniels, Brown and Hall near San Diego, Brown has authored many professional publications. Most notably, he co-authored Evidence and Procedures for Boundary Location and Brown's Boundary Control and Legal Principles, both prominent books used by many surveyors.

Brown's writing career started when the San Diego chapter of the California Council of Registered Engineers and Licensed Land Surveyors published his first book, Boundary Control for Surveyors in California. At the time, he was an instructor at San Diego Vocational School and Junior College, and he compiled the book in his capacity as chairman of the Education Committee of the Council. He also served as president of the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping and received the Surveying and Mapping Award of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Ben Buckner

After earning a B.S. degree in civil engineering from the University of Illinois, Buckner saw horizons beyond the traditional engineering realm. He went on to get an M.S. degree in photogrammetric and geodetic engineering from the University of Illinois and another master's in urban and regional planning from the University of Wisconsin. He would become licensed as a professional surveyor, professional engineer, and community planner.

Pursuing an educational angle in his career, Buckner designed a new curriculum in the Department of Geodetic Science at Ohio State University in the 1970s and wrote and edited most of the test questions on the first Fundamentals of Surveying exams given by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying. Then in the 1980s, he became a professor and the surveying coordinator at East Tennessee State University, where he upgraded the school's existing four-year degree program to a complete surveying curriculum, one that would eventually become accredited. He wrote several surveying textbooks and manuals, and in 1995, he founded Surveyors Educational Seminars and went on to teach hundreds of seminars. Buckner died of cancer in 2004 at the age of 65, but not before he established the Dr. Ben Buckner Surveying and Mapping Scholarship at East Tennessee State University.

Bruce Carlson

After graduating from Dartmouth with a degree in math, Bruce Carlson worked as a professional land surveyor and licensed civil engineer in a small consulting firm he founded in 1981. Then he left in 1983 to form Carlson Software in Maysville, Kentucky. The firm provides AutoCAD-based data collection software for the land surveying, civil engineering, mining, and construction industries.

With Carlson serving as president, Carlson Software has grown to more than 70 employees worldwide and has become an industry leader in survey data collection and mapping using GPS and total stations. He continues his activities with the company in product design and on-site software demonstrations, promoting a culture of customer support based on intuitive and feature-rich software.

Walt Dix

In the 1950s, Walter Dix coined the term "geometronics" as a more appropriate designation for the field of surveying and mapping or cartography. This would give an inkling of the influence he would have in this area, as he was a founding member of the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM) and a member for 50-plus years.

Active into his 90s as secretary emeritus of ACSM, Dix served as a link to the original precepts set by the organization many decades before. He wrote Recollection, a history of ACSM and a reference used frequently by the organization today. In his honor, ACSM created the Walter S. Dix Award "in recognition of an individual who represents and embodies the outstanding contribution to ACSM and the surveying and mapping profession."

Dave Doyle

Dave Doyle has the title of chief geodetic surveyor for NOAA's National Geodetic Survey, but that doesn't begin to tell the story of his contribution to surveying. Perhaps J. Ross Mackay, Kentucky geodetic advisor for NGS says it best: "To many surveyors, Dave Doyle is the National Geodetic Survey. He is the face and voice of NGS that has reached the most people and guided them in their understanding and use of the National Spatial Reference System."

Much of Doyle's influence has come through his outreach workshop efforts. Since 1982, he has presented more than workshops, at least one in each state, speaking to an estimated 10,000 surveying and GIS professionals.

Joseph Francis Dracup

Originally hired by the Coast & Geodetic Survey in 1940 as an engineering aid in the Philadelphia Computing Office, Joseph Dracup served the organization that would later become the National Geodetic Survey in a variety of positions until retiring in 1979. Specializing in education and history, he proved instrumental in setting up and conducting a series of workshops co-sponsored by NGS and the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ASCM), disseminating NGS geodetic control procedures to surveyors. This program continues to provide technology transfer to an increasing number of users of high-accuracy spatial data.

According to Dave Doyle, who worked with Dracup at NGS, "His personable nature and dedication to making the geodetic networks of the U.S. the best they can be have had a lasting impact on the quality of data used by the entire geospatial community to this day."

Mary Feindt

As a teenager growing up in Charlevoix, Michigan, Mary Feindt's parents tried to convince her that surveying was not for women. After an illustrious surveying career spanning over five decades, you could say it didn't work. She became the first registered land surveyor in the state of Michigan in 1944 and the first prominent woman surveyor in the U.S.

Dr. Feindt attained renowned expertise in both the land title and surveying arenas. She began her professional career as an assistant to the owners of Charlevoix Abstract & Engineering Company in 1938. In 1944, she purchased the company and later became its president. That same year, she was elected as the Charlevoix County Surveyor, a position she held for many decades. Feindt has performed and directed thousands of land surveys in Michigan and has prepared numerous abstracts of title and title examinations. These include title searches for many large utility companies and the Michigan Department of Transportation. In 1983, Feindt was elected as the first chair of the newly created Forum for Women in Surveying. Though diminutive in stature, she led women surveyors in a crusade to eliminate sexist advertising in surveying journals and at surveyors' conferences.

Dave Gibson

Over the years, education has come to play a greater role in the surveying industry, as requirements have increased and four-year degree programs have evolved. Few people have played a greater role in establishing survey programs at colleges and universities than Dave Gibson. He has served as Associate Professor, Land Information Systems and Surveying Practice in the University of Florida's Geomatics Program since 1974. During that time, he has gained practical experience as a consultant and expert witness on a variety of issues for surveyors, attorneys, and land title organizations.

For his efforts, Gibson was cited in 1992 by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, the major accrediting body for engineering and surveying schools, for "dedicated support and invaluable contributions to engineering education." In 1991, he was appointed to a national study panel on "The Future of Surveying and Mapping Education in the U.S." by the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM) and continues to serve on that.

Dean Goodman and Ed Cowherd

Back in 1978, Dean Goodman and Ed Cowherd, two registered land surveyors in Atlanta, Georgia, decided to write software to help in their land surveying business. On their Radio Shack Model 1 computer, they created programs that proved so helpful, other surveying companies offered to buy it.

Prior to that, Goodman had started his own surveying firm S.E. Quad Land Surveying in 1975. Then in 1978, he merged his business with Cowherd's firm Cowherd & Associates, forming Cowherd, Goodman & Associates. Known as "The Muddy Boots Guys," they began writing what was to become the Survey System 1.1., one of the first surveying packages written by land surveyors for land surveyors. In 1983, Goodman and Cowherd went full-time writing and maintaining the software, forming C&G Software Systems to market their popular product. C&G is now part of Carlson Software, and Goodman remains as vice president of development and part owner.

Knud Hermansen

Knud Hermansen has many acronyms after his name, indicating the diverse titles he has attained— professional engineer, professional land surveyor, attorney, and Ph.D. in civil engineering. He also has more than 20 years in the military reserves, much of that time spent with engineer and construction units within the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. This has given him a wealth of knowledge and experience to draw upon in becoming a renowned educator. Known as an interesting and colorful character and an engaging instructor, he focuses on the practical side of education in teaching seminars nationwide. He has had an impact on how many surveyors approach and analyze their work.

As a professor at the University of Maine, Orono in the Surveying Engineering Technology Department, Hermansen teaches courses ranging from basic surveying to construction law. He also provides consulting services in land surveying, civil engineering, and law, with his surveying activities involving boundary disputes, easements, land development, liability, title, and contract issues.

Ben Kacyra

As a civil engineer who taught surveying at the college level and the head of Cygna Consultants, a major architectural and engineering firm, Kacyra knew first hand the challenges of gathering accurate, complete as-built data for complex plants and facilities. When he sold Cygna in the early 1990s, Kacyra embarked on a journey to develop a laser scanner that would automatically sweep an eye-safe beam at more than 1,000 points a second over an entire complex scene to capture its as-built geometry in accurate detail. Founding Cyra Technologies in 1993, he drew up the original performance specifications that launched survey-grade laser scanning and oversaw the development of laser scanning hardware and post-processing software used to convert large data files to common survey deliverables.

After the commercial introduction of laser scanning in 1998, Cyra Technologies was acquired by Leica Geosystems in 2001. Today, surveyors everywhere know that 3D laser scanning has become the latest major technology advance in their profession. As Geoff Jacobs, senior vice president of strategic marketing at Leica Geosystems, states, "No individual is more responsible for this than Ben Kacyra."

Roy Minnick

Well into a surveying career that started with the U.S. Army in 1955 and continued with a 30-year stint with the California State Lands Commission, Roy Minnick took a personal interest in promoting surveying education. He went on to become a national leader in fostering the education of students and surveyors and in making instructional materials more readily available. At Sacramento City College, he founded and chaired the Survey Technology Program and taught courses and seminars in surveying. As a publisher, he formed Landmark Enterprises and became the principal supplier of surveying textbooks. To top it off, he also presented hundreds of speeches and seminars throughout the U.S.

As a testimonial to Minnick's accomplishments, following his untimely death at the age of 65 in 2004, the California Foundation for Land Surveying Education created the Roy Minnick Memorial Scholarship to help worthy students acquire an education in surveying.

Francis "Ed" Moffitt

A distinguished author, researcher, and educator, Ed Moffitt served as a professor of civil engineering at the University of California, Berkeley and wrote noted textbooks on surveying. Outside the academic realm, he gained practical experience by consulting for organizations ranging from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to Pacific Gas & Electric and General Motors. He not only served as president of the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing but was also awarded an honorary lifetime membership in the organization. He also served as a national director for the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping.

Dennis Mouland

In 1984, Dennis Mouland formed Cadastral Consulting to provide a high-quality source of continuing education for the real estate and land surveying professions. The organization has grown since then to become the single largest source of speakers at professional surveying conferences. At the same time, Mouland, a licensed professional surveyor, has become well known across the country and beyond for his knowledgeable presentations.

Mouland has moved on to the Bureau of Land Management, managing their educational program in the National Training Center. He also teaches outreach classes through the Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering at the University of Wyoming.

Ray O'Connor

As president of Topcon Positioning Systems in Livermore, California, Ray O'Connor has led the company to a lofty position as one of the world's leading developers and manufacturers of precision positioning equipment. Topcon makes products for the construction, surveying, civil engineering, and agricultural industries and offers a wide selection of innovative GPS, laser, optical surveying, and machine control products.

Much of Topcon's innovation has come through the development of a new technology under O'Connor's watch. Known as optomechatronics, it combines elements from advanced optics, electronics, and precision equipment processing to create many lines of new products.

Jim Reily

While Jim Reilly pursued M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in geodetic science from Ohio State University, he conducted research under a NASA contract that involved geodetic network satellites. This made him a pioneer in developing today's Global Positioning System (GPS) technology.

After a varied career in engineering, university research and teaching, and consulting, Reilly serves as department head and professor emeritus in the Department of Surveying Engineering at New Mexico State University. In addition to teaching surveying courses, he is frequently called upon to develop and present surveying-related seminars and workshops, mostly for state surveyor society continuing education requirements. Through his firm Geodetic Enterprises, he does GPS consulting and seminars on surveying applications and GPS.

Walt Robilard

With education, training, and experience as a forester, land surveyor, and lawyer, Walt Robillard ranks as a multi-faceted professional with a unique perspective. A registered professional surveyor in Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, the native of upstate New York consults in land boundary disputes, title problems, survey negligence, and contract problems, both locally and internationally. Problems involving historical significance often have him analyzing ancient boundaries. His 50-some years of experience have taken him to all 50 states and many foreign countries.

Robillard has written college textbooks and legal research books spanning the surveying and the legal professions. He has also shared his extensive knowledge as a popular speaker and presenter at lectures and continuing education seminars.

Curt Sumner

As executive director of the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping, Curt Sumner has become regarded in the industry as a tireless workhorse putting forward ideas for the professional surveyor in a modern age of ever advancing technology.

Through ACSM, a non-profit educational organization, Sumner strives to advance the sciences of surveying and mapping and related fields and further the welfare of those who use and make maps. The members of ACSM's four member organizations include more than 5,000 surveyors, cartographers, geodesists, and other spatial data information professionals working in public and private sectors throughout the world.

Cliff Thorpe

For many years, Cliff Thorpe owned and operated Thorpe-Smith, a successful surveying supply company in Falls Church, Virginia. But he made his biggest mark when he founded Professional Surveyor Magazine in 1981 as a free information source for surveyors that focused on technological developments, issues, and trends. Coming at a time when surveying was on the brink of rapid change with the advent of computer, GPS, and GIS technologies, PSM's editorial focus reflected the fact that surveying is an increasingly integrated activity.

Skeptics thought there wouldn't be an audience for such a publication, much less advertising support. But it went on to achieve a circulation as high as 50,000, and it changed the way surveyors think about their work, opened dialog in the surveying community, and influenced events.

Sadly, as we went to press, we received the news that Cliff passed away on August 13th, 2006. He was 92 years old.

We applaud Cliff for his vision, recognize him for his many achievements, and thank him for his unrelenting support of the surveying community.

R. Stanley Trent

Working as a land surveyor in Tennessee in 1983, Stanley Trent formed Surveyors Module Inc. (SMI), a software company that pioneered electronic surveying procedures. John Wiley, president of Wiley & Associates, says, "Because of Mr. Trent, we are using data collection today in all aspects of land development, from basic to GPS. What started in east Tennessee in the early 80s changed surveying as we know it today."

It actually started for Trent before then, as he started writing software in the 1970s on small desktop computers and programmable calculators. When the HP29C came along, Stanley started sharing his software with other surveyors. Then in 1983, Trent and over 20 fellow surveyors organized SMI to provide field software to surveyors around the world. Trent served as president of SMI from 1983 to 1999, when SMI was purchased by Eagle Point Software, a leading provider of desktop software solutions for land surveyors, civil engineers, and landscape architects.

Charlie Trimble

When Charlie Trimble and two partners from Hewlett-Packard founded Trimble Navigation in Sunnyvale, California in 1978, they probably had no idea they were creating an entire industry. As president and chief executive officer, Trimble guided Trimble Navigation to its dominant role in the GPS information technology market and came to be recognized as a leading pioneer in the GPS industry.

Trimble started his company the same year NavStar, the first GPS satellite, was launched. Intrigued by GPS, Trimble recognized the potential of the new technology and spearheaded its rapid development, taking it from exclusively military applications to markets such as surveying and navigation. Marrying GPS with technologies such as wireless communications spawned new markets that make use of positioning information. In 1992, Trimble developed real-time kinematics technology (RTK), allowing surveyors to do topographic mapping, stakeout, Geographic Information System (GIS) data acquisition, and as-built surveys in real-time.

Don Wilson

As a licensed land surveyor and professional forester, Don Wilson has been a full-time consultant since 1977 and serves as president of Land & Boundary Consultants, Inc., a firm in New Hampshire specializing in land records research and evidence investigation. But his reach extends far beyond that.

In addition to more than 150 technical publications, Wilson has been involved with the writing of 25 books, including surveying law books and boundary-related texts. A noted lecturer, he has presented hundreds of seminars on a variety of topics including description interpretation, boundary evidence, surveying law, and photogrammetry. He is a member of the Professional Surveyor/Red Vector "Dream Team" providing online continuing education for surveyors and related professionals and the lead instructor for Surveyors Educational Seminars, a division of his consulting firm. He has also instructed in the University of New Hampshire Continuing Education system for 25 years.

Paul Wolf

After receiving his Ph.D. in 1967 from the University of Wisconsin- Madison, Paul Wolf began an illustrious academic career when he was appointed assistant professor of civil engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. He stayed there until 1970, when he returned to his alma mater as a professor in the civil and environmental engineering department. While at UW-Madison, he served as head of the Surveying, Photogrammetry, and Remote Sensing Division from 1979 until his retirement in 1993. Through the dedicated efforts of Wolf and his colleagues, the surveying, mapping and photogrammetry program gained an international reputation for quality.

Wolf helped educate hundreds of students at the UW-Madison, many of whom went on to earn Ph.D.s in the field and follow his path into teaching and research. He also wrote standard-setting textbooks and study guides. His widely acclaimed texts include: Elements of Photogrammetry, Elementary Surveying, and Adjustment Computations: Statistics and Least Squares in Surveying and GIS.

About the Author

  • Tom Gibson, PE
    Tom Gibson, PE
    Tom was editor of the magazine from June 2006 to May 2010. He is also the editor of Progressive Engineer: www.progressiveengineer.com

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