MCP Insights

A Few Words About Marc Berryman — GIS Visionary and Vital Voice of Reason

Posted on June 16, 2023 by Sherri Griffith Powell

In a few days, I will have the distinct, yet bittersweet, honor to accept the National Emergency Number Association’s Presidential Award on behalf of Marc Berryman, my friend and colleague who died a year ago after a short battle with cancer. This will occur during NENA’s 2023 national conference in Grapevine, Texas, on June 18.

Marc looked like everyone’s favorite uncle and played the part to perfection. Regarding geographic information systems (GIS), Marc almost always was the smartest person in the room. Despite this, he never was condescending, never spoke down to anyone, and never made you feel as if you had asked a stupid question. And he always responded in a way that ensured you would understand his answer.

Social Media - Marc Berryman

In this regard, I would like to share with you something that Robert Horne recently said about Marc. Today, Robert leads MCP’s GIS team, but when he first joined the firm, he had a solid understanding of GIS but wasn’t as knowledgeable about the relationship between this vital technology and 911 systems, especially Next Generation 911 (NG911) systems. (An aside: in the NG911 environment, emergency callers will be located via geospatial routing, which depends on accurate, timely, and well-integrated GIS data.)

Here’s what Robert said:

“I knew GIS, but he knew GIS and 911. I have a folder on my computer called ‘Marc explains.’ I refer to it often, and even now, I pull out his answers to questions that I’m asked today. He was a great mentor.”

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Marc also was a visionary. He was one of the first to recognize the importance of GIS when wireless-enhanced 911 service arrived in the late 1990s. He used to say, “we need a way to plot these calls on a map” — and that, of course, requires GIS.

Marc also was a great shepherd. He was an active participant in, and even chaired, numerous NENA committees and working groups. Several important standards that help align NG911 and GIS were developed under Marc’s watch. He was amazing to watch during standards-development meetings, which tend to get testy and even heated at times.

This is understandable — everyone in the room is smart and passionate about GIS, and they definitely have very strong opinions about how things should go. But Marc had a way of disagreeing without it getting ugly. He always was so level-headed, which was what made him a great mediator — he was the voice of reason and a great calming influence.

Before Marc arrived at MCP in 2013, he was GIS manager/engineer for Greater Harris County 9-1-1 Emergency Network (GHC 9-1-1) in Houston. Sonya Lopez-Clauson, GHC 9-1-1’s public-information officer, was a colleague of Marc’s and remembers his dedication to GIS.

“Marc helped launch our GIS department,” she says. “He never hesitated to get involved. He was like a silent hero who always went above and beyond. He would do anything that was needed and was very passionate about GIS and its role in transitioning to NG911. It’s rare to see that level of dedication. He was very special.”

Marc’s dedication extended to NENA, according to Lopez-Clauson. “When I think of NENA, I think of Marc,” she says.

The only thing that would make June 18 better is if Marc were there to accept the award himself. He will be missed. But this well-deserved and long-overdue award ensures that he will be remembered — I love that.

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