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Charting a Global Map of Innovations, Ron Bisio ’91 Gives Back

On the wall of Ron Bisio’s home office in Boulder, Colorado, a nautical chart outlines the familiar islands off the shoreline of Falmouth, Mass., the hometown where Ron learned to sail before attending Salem State. A global atlas is needed, however, to detail the places his career has taken him since. A senior vice president and executive team member, Ron has worked in 43 countries for Trimble, an international leader in geospatial survey technology and information systems. The company creates customized mapping tools, location information systems and analytics software with an endless range of uses. The company’s 3D imaging instruments were used to document the intricate details of an opera house in Saigon. In the Netherlands, Trimble developed systems to monitor tree growth to restore degraded land. In rapidly developing Kuwait, Trimble’s tools allowed for fast, accurate delineation of property boundaries. 

A geography student in the late 1980s, Ron was witness to a pivotal moment in the field and in the department: manual mapmaking on mylar and paper was transitioning to a computerized practice. “Mapmaking is an art and a science. I remember Professor Steve Matchik was the art; Professor Bill Hamilton was the science,” said Bisio. Matchik taught the foundations and Hamilton was transferring maps into digital formats at the earliest phases of computerization. The first company to hire Ron was Esri, the developer of the state-of-the-art software Ron encountered as a Salem State student, before graduate study at UMass. Just a few years later, he began at Trimble where he has spent 25 years steering the course of heady innovations with 400 partner locations worldwide.

By facilitating a major gift of field equipment through Trimble, Ron has ensured that Salem State students will continue to have access to the latest mapping tools, a hallmark commitment of the department, which, to Ron’s liking, is now called geography and sustainability. He recently returned to campus and spoke with current Vikings about his journey as a first-generation college student and his work with Trimble, emphasizing the importance of hard work and staying connected. “It’s about giving back, but it also just makes sense for the company. We want to broaden the diversity of our team and Salem State has the students to do that. They have more perspectives to offer. They speak many languages. There’s impact here on so many levels—for the students, the college, for Trimble.” 

No one could have outlined the forthcoming revolutionary arc of the digital age. Starting on the third floor of Meier Hall, Ron entered an uncharted profession of ceaseless innovations. Still, he knew where he wanted to go. What started with a childhood fascination of Tolkien’s maps of Middle Earth inside the book covers of ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ Ron’s passion is what plots his path. Recently, it led him back to Salem State where his career first set sail. With a son in high school who sails as Ron did at that age, he and his wife Mary, have been reflecting on the places and people who impacted their lives. “Salem State launched the entire trajectory of my life.” 

To students, Ron suggests one map: “Just follow your passion. That’s it.”


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