In Memorium: Robert Durrenberger, ASU pioneer in arid land studies

February 4, 2013

Robert W. Durrenberger, a professor of geography at ASU from 1971-1982, passed away on Oct. 20, 2012 at the age of 94. Durrenberger, already a nationally-known climatologist when he arrived at ASU, will be remembered at ASU for establishing the position of Arizona State climatologist at the university, as well as helping develop ASU’s climatology program into an internationally-recognized center for teaching and research. He’ll also be remembered for his research and insights into environmental challenges presented by rapid population and economic growth of the American Southwest.

When he arrived at ASU in 1971, Durrenberger was well-known as a geographer with a focus on arid land research, environmental problems, agricultural geography and the United States southwest. He had been professor at San Fernando Valley State College (now California State University – Northridge) since 1956, where he had also served as department chair and dean of graduate studies. photo of Robert Durrenberger Download Full Image

He arrived at ASU at a time when the federal government was turning over responsibility to maintain state climate records and assist with state-focused climate questions from NOAA to the individual states. Durrenberger worked to establish Arizona’s State Climatology Program at ASU, and in 1973, the state named Durrenberger as Arizona’s first state climatologist. At the same time the Arizona Board of Regents also established of the Laboratory of Climatology, an independent unit at ASU with a mission to serve the public, state agencies and businesses of Arizona by maintaining historical climate data for Arizona and conducting research in climate-related issues. Durrenberger held the position of Arizona State climatologist until 1979. 

In his role as state climatologist, Durrenberger authored numerous publications specifically relevant to Arizona, including studies of precipitation, historical storms and floods, drought, and climate and energy in various regions of the state. After stepping down from his post as state climatologist, he focused on solar energy development, directing a project to assess Arizona’s solar energy resources and authoring a report on a solar radiation monitoring system for Arizona. 

While at ASU, Durrenberger published a dictionary of the environmental sciences, and played a role in a wide range of other professional activities. Just as a sample – he published a paper in the Annals of the Association of American Geographers that presented opportunities and challenges for the Colorado Plateau as an economic frontier for energy development, spoke at an International Geographical Union Symposium on “Urbanization in Arid Lands,” and served as editor-at-large for The National Weather Digest. He also served on the executive board of the Solar Radiation Division of the American Section of the International Solar Energy Society. 

Minnesota State University in Moorehead, where Durrenberger earned his undergraduate degree, presented him with its 1977 Distinguished Alumni Award, citing his contributions in education, climatology, and service to state and federal governments.

After his retirement in 1982, Durrenberger settled in Sun City, Ariz., where he enjoyed golfing, playing bridge, and spending time with friends and family.  He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Bernadine A. Durrenberger, his daughter, Mary Ann Marasco and her husband Mike, as well as 3 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren. His son, Dan Durrenberger, preceded him in death.

Barbara Trapido-Lurie

research professional senior, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning


ASU, Arizona libraries collaborate to offer co-working spaces, business support

February 5, 2013

Hub and spoke system will use ASU SkySong to support new EUREKA spaces in designated libraries

ASU Venture Catalyst, the startup unit of Arizona State University, along with the Scottsdale Public Library system, has announced a new initiative for helping inventors, problem-solvers, social enterprises, entrepreneurs and small businesses. The new Alexandria Network is designed to provide support for the innovation economy within designated libraries, eventually creating a network of locations across the greater Phoenix area and then across the state of Arizona. Alexandria Network logo Download Full Image

These new locations will combine elements of the now popular co-working spaces, along with expert library fact-finding services and ASU startup resources, into one designated place. Innovators and entrepreneurs can use these EUREKA co-working spaces on a daily basis to work on their ideas while also getting mentorship, advice and access to some "pracademic" classes both online and in the libraries.

Using proven startup content, experienced entrepreneurial mentors and "pracademic" teaching modules from their successful Rapid Startup Schools, ASU will support these new co-working and development spaces in designated libraries. The pilot EUREKA location will be in the Scottsdale Public Library system, based in the Civic Center library. The long-term objective is to support the hundreds of inventors, problem-solvers, entrepreneurs, and micro- and small-businesses from across Arizona that need help to advance their ideas. The first EUREKA space in Scottsdale will open in early April.  

“We are creating an ecosystem for success to occur in Scottsdale, and many companies here are benefitting from that,” said Scottsdale Mayor W.J. “Jim” Lane. “Scottsdale also has an incredible number of entrepreneurs in every business type, and the free resources and opportunities to connect and learn from fellow business people provided through the Alexandria Network will be a powerful asset for them.”

“We have an opportunity to leverage the many entrepreneurship resources of ASU, including the mentor network we have built at ASU SkySong, to support innovators outside of the traditional locations in Arizona,” said Gordon McConnell, assistant vice president of innovation and entrepreneurship in the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU. “Our vision is to create a ‘hub and spoke’ system with our colleagues in libraries across the state where ASU SkySong is the hub that acts as a support structure for the innovators and job creators that exist in our communities, and each library location is an additional spoke that continues to expand the Alexandria Network.”

The Alexandria Network is named after the first great library, the Library at Alexandria, which started in the third century B.C. The layout of the Alexandria library is actually copied by universities, as it provided reading rooms, meeting spaces, and lecture halls for its innovative patrons. The Alexandria Library, and the other libraries in antiquity that followed it, were not just about books; in essence, they were society’s first collaborative co-working spaces and knowledge hubs. People would gather in libraries to discuss, debate, and tackle issues such as astronomy, mathematics, philosophy, and anatomy. Historians now count these places as the first research institutions, predating the university by centuries.

The Alexandria Network is designed to help the modern library offer similar collaboration spaces with an emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship, offering the community a major public good.

“This is the role of the library in a new economic, social and learning landscape,” said Carol Damaso, director of the Scottsdale Public Library. “We are partnering on this innovative concept to provide a cooperative learning space and programming that combines the proven success of ASU entrepreneurship programs with the library as a known space for continuing education for all people.”

The Scottsdale EUREKA location will be supported by the Economic Development team in the City of Scottsdale, as these spaces will support the current and potential innovators in Scottsdale, as well as entrepreneurs and small business. Therefore there is a large potential for driving economic development and creating new products, businesses, and jobs.

Scottsdale is home to companies who are thought leaders in their respective industries – companies like Go Daddy and Taser to name two among many – and thus an ideal starting place for the Alexandria Network. The presence of companies like these helps create a business atmosphere that sparks innovation and attracts entrepreneurs in all business sectors.

Being an inventor, problem-solver, or entrepreneur is often a lonely task. The EUREKA locations will serve as places for people to connect, as individual networking amongst participants is an important part of the concept. Moreover, local library staff will act as champions by offering information resources to their community of innovators.

“We are a business-friendly city, and proud to be part of this program because the collaboration and programming available through the Alexandria Network will benefit everyone, from new startups and small businesses to industry giants and everyone in between,” said Lane.

“We don’t believe any entrepreneur is a ‘lifestyle’ business. We are creating the Alexandria Network to support what we are calling ‘Great Little Companies’ and those people who can create businesses, products, and solutions to problems, whether they be big or small,” added McConnell.

The ASU mentor network will be activated to provide additional expert entrepreneurial support. Online and digital assets from the library system and ASU will also be leveraged to provide additional guidance for the varied users of the EUREKA locations. The Alexandria Network is interested in hearing from individuals, mentors, and organizations that are interested in supporting this innovation. More details on the resources, classes and supports that will be available will be announced when the pilot location is officially opened in April. Additional locations will be announced on a rolling basis during 2013.

For more information on the Alexandria Network, visit

To contact us about volunteering or possible additional locations, contact Tracy Lea at