Hugh Calkins, GIS Pioneer and Former UB Department Chair, Dies at 66

Release Date: June 23, 2005 This content is archived.


BUFFALO -- Hugh West Calkins, Ph.D., a pioneer in the development of geographic information systems who was University at Buffalo professor emeritus of geography and former chair of UB's geography department, died from cancer Saturday (June 18, 2005) in Littleton, Colo. He was 66.

Calkins, who previously lived in Williamsville, moved to Colorado with his wife after retiring from UB in 2002 to be closer to his son's family.

In honor of his contributions to the university, the department has established the Hugh W. Calkins Applied GIS Award to be awarded annually to a graduate student in the department who demonstrates the principles Calkins developed and taught regarding the successful application of geographic information systems (GIS) to real-world issues.

A faculty member in the Department of Geography in the UB College of Arts and Sciences since 1975, he advised dozens of students at the doctoral, graduate and undergraduate levels. Calkins served as department chair from 1999 to 2002.

In April, a panel discussion was held in Calkins' honor at the annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers in Denver, an event at which his colleagues celebrated his legacy in the field, noting that he had defined what it meant to be a GIS professional.

Calkins, who served as a city planner in Redwood City, Calif.; Cleveland, Ohio, and Ottawa, Canada, before coming to UB, played a key role in defining and developing the field of geographic information systems, working to apply GIS to address issues faced by local governments.

Through his service on numerous national, state and local advisory committees and boards, he was a leader in the establishment of information exchange standards for GIS.

Calkins served as a member of the National Committee on Digital Cartographic Data Standards of the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping.

He also served as co-leader on two research initiatives of the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis at UB, one of the center's three sites nationwide, which focused on the use of geographic information in decision making and institutional data sharing.

Under a project funded by the New York State Archives and Records Administration, Calkins led the development of guidebooks and standards for GIS adoption by local governments that have been adopted around the world.

In 2001, Calkins was appointed a senior specialist by the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, which allowed him to consult on GIS issues in other countries.

Calkins received his bachelor's degree from the University of California at Berkeley, and his master's and doctoral degrees in urban planning from the University of Washington.

He is survived by his wife, Judy, of Littleton, Colo.; a daughter Victoria DeMaret, of Baltimore; a son, John, of Littleton, Colo., and several grandchildren.

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