Google visionary who graduated from LHS urges early access to computers

Brian McClendon, who grew up in Lawrence and oversees Geo products, including Google Earth, visits with longtime friend Bob Moore before speaking Thursday morning at The Community Education breakfast at the Lawrence Holidome.

The next generation of Web wizards could come from Lawrence if more technology is put into schools.

That’s what Google visionary Brian McClendon, a 1982 Lawrence High School graduate, told about 500 people Friday at the annual Community Education Breakfast at the Lawrence Holidome.

“You need to get children used to it and experienced with it,” said McClendon, who is credited with developing the popular Google Earth and Google Street View applications.

The digital divide is real, McClendon said, and children who don’t have access to computers and technology at home must be able to learn about them in school.

“Not everyone has a computer and they don’t necessarily know the interesting ways to use them.

“I can say all the applications that were developed today were developed by people who got early access to (computers), and I think Lawrence students need to be making the applications for the next 20 years,” McClendon said.

The Community Education Breakfast, now in its seventh year, raised about $49,000 for the Lawrence Schools Foundation. Susan Esau, executive director of the foundation, said it was a record intake.

She spent the afternoon accompanying McClendon, who visited computer science and engineering classes at Lawrence High.

“I can envision some of the students in future years doing the same things Brian has done,” she said.

Esau said McClendon’s success combined with a humble demeanor made him a good speaker for the event.

“I think it’s amazing that a man who has been so successful still remembers the name of his fourth-grade teacher and math teacher, and he gives them so much credit,” she said. “That tells me so much about the importance of our educators.”