Loveland Enters South Dakota Hall of Fame

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Tom Loveland, the recently retired chief scientist at the Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center, was inducted Sept. 7-8, 2018, into the South Dakota Hall of Fame in Chamberlain, SD, for his career and work in remote sensing.

Photo of Tom Loveland at SD Hall of Fame Awards Ceremony

Former USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center Chief Scientists Tom Loveland stands with the South Dakota Hall of Fame plaque and medallion he received during his induction ceremonies Sept. 7-8, 2018, in Chamberlain, SD.

As the first career employee at EROS to be so honored, Loveland told the 500 people gathered at the Arrowwood Cedar Shore Resort near Chamberlain that his recognition was testimony to the incredible work being done at the Center.

“EROS is a well-known, world class science center,” Loveland said. “The singular reason why it’s so important is because it has an incredible mission, and it has the talents and the commitments of people over the years who have excelled and put it on the map. My honor tonight is really their honor.”

In remarks at a late-morning brunch the day of the induction ceremony, South Dakota Lieutenant Governor Matt Michels called Loveland “an amazing talent,” adding, “I’m so grateful that we can shine a light and give thanks for this talent that you have perfected in remote sensing in the analyzing of our home.”

Michels discussed how the work of Loveland and EROS has been used in assessing food security in places like China, or in monitoring the impacts of damming streams. Michels also noted how maps provided by EROS helped “minimize a phenomenal fight” in the last year over meandering and non-meandering waterways in South Dakota.

“Through his remote sensing and analysis of our Earth, (Loveland) gives us a perspective that is way better and more impactful than a Google Earth look,” Michels said. “It provides us a revolutionary look at what is happening to our planet.”

In lighter moments at the beginning of his induction speech, Loveland noted that he wasn’t necessarily focused on excellence as a child, but rather “subscribed to what essentially was a laziness philosophy.” However, encouraged by his parents, Loveland went off to South Dakota State University (SDSU), where he was inspired by a professor of geography named Dr. Ed Hogan.

“That really changed my world,” Loveland said of Hogan. “He introduced me to the discipline of geography. He taught me the joy of learning. And he left me with a desire to pursue an effort to understand the world using my fledgling geographic research skills.”

By happenstance, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) was opening the EROS Data Center north of Sioux Falls just before Loveland finished his graduate work at SDSU. He got the opportunity to explore EROS’ new remote-sensing technology as a student intern. Then, after taking positions in several other programs across the country, he was hired as a permanent employee at EROS in the late 1970s, “and I spent the next 40 years in my home state and my hometown being involved in what I think is one of the most remarkable science centers in the world,” Loveland told the audience at the Hall of Fame ceremony.

“At EROS, I found my niche, and I found my passion,” he continued. “The inspiring mission and the amazing staff that I worked with changed my world view. It changed me from somebody focused on laziness to somebody that really was interested in becoming an overachiever.”

Of course, overachieving doesn’t happen without help, Loveland added. “I’m particularly indebted to the members of the research teams that I was able to be part of over the years,” he said. “What I’ve learned is, while individuals can have an impact, teams have the lasting societal impacts in this world. Those are the people, the pioneers, the innovators that I worked with in the new scientific field that provided the objective results that continue to be used today.”

Joining most of Loveland’s family and many of his friends at the induction ceremony was a nice representation from EROS, including Acting Director John Hahn, Acting Deputy Director Pete Doucette, Science and Applications Branch Chief John Dwyer, and two of Tom’s retired EROS colleagues, Ron Beck and Charlie Trautwein and their wives.

Loveland went into the South Dakota Hall of Fame with an impressive 2018 Class, including: Lakota spiritual leader Black Elk; famed Watertown and SDSU athlete Cleveland Abbott; Avera Health System President John Porter; Dr. Rod Parry of the University of South Dakota School of Medicine; LifeScape Chief Executive Office Anne Rieck McFarland; Huron community leader Marilyn Hohm Hoyt; telecommunications entrepreneur Rod Bowar of Kennebec; communications hardware and software creator Roger Musick of Mitchell; and Raymond Peterson, producer of the Miss South Dakota Pageant.