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MN GIS/LIS Lifetime Achievement Award Winner - Ken Pekarek
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MN GIS/LIS Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

Ken Pekarek (2005)

Ken Pekarek is a long time Minnesota GIS user, supporter, teacher and visionary. He has advanced the field of GIS in Minnesota, utilized GIS technology in ways that have improved Minnesota’s quality of life and contributed to work that is widely known and utilized across the state. Early in his career, Ken helped develop and use computerized techniques to analyze natural and man-made impacts on Minnesota’s environment and resources. He worked side by side with GIS pioneers: Rod Sando, Les Maki and Al Robinette in developing the MLMIS data base. More recently, Ken has tirelessly carried the “GIS vision” to schools, educators and professionals across the state of Minnesota through his work in the design and support of easy-to-use GIS tools.

Mr. Pekarek began his career with the State of Minnesota on April 22, 1970 (Earth Day One). In those early days, he was fortunate to work under the tutelage of Al Robinette and to learn a new computer analysis program: EPPL - Environmental Planning and Programming Language. He applied his expertise to high profile projects such as “State of Minnesota verses Reserve Mining” and the Cedar Avenue crossing of the Minnesota River. As a member of the Minnesota Land Management Information System (MLMIS) project at the University of Minnesota, Ken helped develop base data layers for Minnesota and in 1977 was transferred to the newly formed Land Management Information Center (LMIC) at the State Planning Agency.

For the past 10 years, he has served as the EPPL/EPIC coordinator providing customer service and technical support to EPPL/EPIC users worldwide. Ken guided the production of EPPL7 16-bit and 32-bit GIS Toolbox, EPIC 2000/2001, AtlasGDS and built the Environmental Atlas data base. In addition, he co-chaired 10 annual EPPL/EPIC user conferences, developed and coordinated the GIS Education Grant program for schools and presented GIS training to over 1000 teachers and professionals across the state.

Leaving state service in May of 2005, Ken now assists teachers as a contractor to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Firewise in the Classroom Project. His first assignment was to produce 2003 FSA air photos on DVD for teachers to use in conducting community assessments. Over the coming school year he will provide on-call mobile technical assistance to teachers implementing the Firewise curriculum statewide.

By far, Ken has done more than anyone in Minnesota to directly impact GIS in K-12 Education by his tireless commitment to working with educators. Two of the teachers he worked with have received national awards: ESRI’s national Community Atlas Model Project Award and the National Science Teachers’ Toyota Tapestry Grant Award. Working with Tom Eiber, he helped launch Firewise, engaging hundreds of students in modeling fire risk with GIS and adding local data to enhance the value system to local fireman.

In support of this award, Sara Damon, one of the award winning teachers wrote, “Most valuable to me, personally, has been his guidance and unwavering support. No matter what or when I have requested help, Ken has always been there for me.” He was in the audience when her students presented Firewise results to evening meetings of town boards and city councils. Damon continues, “His presence there is the ultimate example of support for students and teachers.” Minnesota has been fortunate to have such a committed and hardworking person in the GIS profession.

Ken's Lifetime Achievement Award plaque reads: " Ken Pekarek, GIS Applications Pioneer, Unwavering Champion of GIS in Schools".


2005 Lifetime Award recipient Ken Pekarek with MN GIS/LIS Consortium Chair Joella Givens. 

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