Every day, people retire from their jobs and go off quietly to enjoy free time with their family and pursue the interests they love. For the colleagues left behind, we simply pick up where they left off without too much fanfare. But every so often, a key player retires who has made a big difference and impact in your industry.
This is exactly the case with Mr. Rob Aanstoos. Rob is officially retiring at the end of February from Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) where he has worked in the Technology Planning, Policy and Governance section. Rob has been involved with GIS since the earliest days at the State. After 35 years, it will be difficult to see him go.
From the early 1980’s Rob had access to the very first “homemade” GIS system in Texas when he worked for TNRIS and the Texas Water Commission (TWC). He was instrumental in bringing change to GIS when he oversaw a committee responsible for acquiring a new commercial GIS system. The TWC eventually selected ESRI Arc/Info as their GIS choice, which ushered in the modern GIS technology era for Texas.
During his tenure, Rob has recognized the importance of GIS in Texas and has been involved in advancing its use. His work has ranged from GIS implementation to policy and governance. As one of the original pioneers, he has paved the way for Texas GIS initiatives.
TNRIS had the opportunity to interview Rob recently about his past 35 years and here’s what he said…
TNRIS: Where did you grow up?
Rob: I was born and raised at Lat.30.576546, Lon -97.430609, better known as Taylor, Williamson County, Texas.
T: Where did you get your education?
R: BA Physics, Rice University. Took a break after one year of graduate school at Indiana University, but forgot to go back, because I enjoyed my work at TNRIS too much!
T: How did you arrive in this industry? What path brought you here?
R: My physics specialty was optical properties of solids. Plus, I was fascinated with the U.S. space program and computer programming. When I stumbled on a microfiche job listing for a temporary position at TNRIS working on a NASA project involving Landsat digital image processing, I knew it was for me! After completing this project, TNRIS placed me in a permanent GIS position.
T: How long have you been practicing GIS?
R: I started at TNRIS in 1979 and continued learning and practicing GIS in the 80's and 90's at the Railroad Commission and then the Water Commission (which became TNRCC, which became TCET:. More recently, I accepted a GIS coordination role at DIR, which inevitably led to a diminution of actually practicing GIS. By now, my GIS chops are more than a bit rusty. Anyone looking for an AML programmer?
T: What influences did you have that shaped the person you are today?
R: I credit my earliest bosses at DIR -- John Wilson, Sam McCullough, and the esteemed Dr. Charles Palmer -- with providing the perfect mix of direction, support, challenges and trust to motivate and advance me in my career. On a larger scale, the close-knit community formed by all the people at TNRIS and the GIS staff from all the agencies made me feel that I was part of something bigger, that my work was more than just a job.
T: What was the single biggest challenge you faced in your work with GIS in the State?
R: True integration of geospatial technologies with mainstream information technologies would lead to tremendous benefits to society. Although great progress has been made, there is still a long way to go.
R: Oh gosh... retiring, maybe?
T: What would you consider to be your greatest achievement?
R: Probably my role in developing the well mapping system at the Railroad Commission, and guiding the massive data conversion effort that ensued.
T: What will you remember most about your career?
R: That's easy... the people! There were many experts, teachers, free-thinkers, innovators, bs-ers, evangelists, dreamers, supporters, and the variety of characters. I’ll especially remember the characters. Too many names to list, but you know who you are!
T: Where can we find you when you’re not working? What’s your favorite way to spend a weekend or a Sunday afternoon?
R: Free time!? I hope to explore that concept soon. Being outside, mostly -- on foot or on bike. Weekend favorite spots include Enchanted Rock and the Hill Country in general.
T: Any awards or medals, or even medallions? Personal okay, too.
R: My biggest catch has been my wife, Charlotte -- also a TNRIS alum!! Other than that, I have been grateful for each of the 424 checks I have received from the State of Texas.
T: What does the next chapter in your life have in store for you?
R: A lot of home projects, some learning, more time with my wife, some travel, more volunteer work, and maybe a little contract work here and there. Other than that... who knows?
One thing is certain, Rob’s influence runs deep in Texas and our industry has benefitted immensely from his leadership.
Rob, from all your friends in the GIS community, we wish you all the best and we hope that our actions moving forward will make you proud.
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