Lifetime Achievement

Once a year at the annual Mississippi Geospatial Conference, the Mississippi Association for Spatial Technologies recognizes a single member of our community that has had a major impact on the advancement of geospatial education, technology, or community development within the state of Mississippi. This lifetime achievement award symbolizes the appreciation of our entire community and profession toward this individual for their contributions.

Life Time Achievement Award Recipients

Listed in Reverse Chronological Order

Mike Miller

2021 Recipient

Mike Miller was a founding board member of the Mississippi Association for Spatial Technologies and the original author of the bylaws of the organization. Over the years Mike contributed the to organization as a both a board member and officer. Mike championed statewide data standards, interorganizational data sharing, and mentorship of geospatial community members. Mike’s big heart for helping others led to the mentorship of many community members that went on to contribute to our field. In this way Mike acted as an invaluable force multiplier for geospatial development in the state of Mississippi. To this end, the Mike Miller Memorial Scholarship is awarded annually at the Mississippi Geospatial Conference in his memory and in honor of his commitment to mentorship during his life. 

Scott Samson

2020 Recipient

Scott A. Samson, Ph.D, originally from Nebraska where his GIS career began using dot matrix printers to symbolize maps with ASCII characters, retired from his position as Associate Extension Professor with the Mississippi State University GeoResources Institute in 2019. Scott received his Ph.D. at the University of Alabama and subsequently went to work for an Extension Service in Kentucky. While in Kentucky, Scott also participated in a training program to teach GIS skills to prisoners to provide them with employment opportunities upon their release. Throughout his career, Scott was extremely dedicated to education, which led to his outstanding efforts post Hurricane Katrina. After Hurricane Katrina ravaged the state of Mississippi, Scott immediately understood the absence of spatial data and GIS training while he was providing field support for disaster relief. During disaster recovery, as a certified ESRI trainer, Scott developed a program to deliver training throughout the state with a mobile GIS lab consisting of the latest versions of ArcGIS Desktop and twenty-four laptops that could be used at hosting agencies for training. In 2006, Dr. Samson was named one of ESRI’s Top 5 Instructors. While communicating with local governments during this time, Scott realized that some smaller counties and cities were unable to afford commercial GIS software licenses and developed the Intro, Intermediate, and Advanced QGIS open source GIS courses. Scott’s work with local governments, professional organizations, and colleagues has been invaluable and his impact on GIS in the state follows the Mississippi Association for Spatial Technologies mission: to promote, educate and provide assistance in professional development for the use and application of spatial technology in the state of Mississippi.

Walter "Wally" Belokon

2019 Recipient

Walter “Wally” Belokon was a dedicated employee of MARIS for 30+ years where he mentored much of the Mississippi geospatial community. He served as a pioneering focal point in Mississippi GIS specializing in Remote Sensing in the early 1980s becoming an important part of countless projects, such as land use/cover classification, legislative redistricting, contour elevations, and MS Archives and History. Wally, originally from the Chicago area, started his career as a regional planner at the Kisatchie-Delta Regional Planning and Development District in Alexandria, LA during the late 1970’s before coming to Mississippi to work at IHL in 1981. He retired in 2012 but continued working as a contract geographer for the MS Dept. of Transportation. Even after fully retiring he remained active in the GIS community regularly attending professional meetings and conferences; we always looked forward to seeing Wally during those times. Wally is one of the key founders of Mississippi GIS and our resulting successes.