danOver 20 years ago, I was an unknown graduate student at the University of Vermont with an unpopular research idea.

I was convinced that our increasing dependence on inherently vulnerable critical infrastructure presented an emerging national security issue.

Few others were similarly convinced.

Then I somehow caught the attention of Dan Kuehl at the National Defense University and on a trip to Washington DC he invited me to visit his office. I ended up spending the entire afternoon with Dan who entertained all of my questions, walked me through the halls of NDU, introduced me to all his colleagues, and bought me lunch.

The most critical thing Dan did was encourage me to keep going with my research. Little did I know at the time, but Dan was privy to a classified dialogue at the Department of Defense surrounding DOD Directive TS3600.1 which was raising many of the same issues I was focusing on. Given I didn’t have a clearance, he couldn’t share the news with me, but instead stacked me up with papers on C3I and other relevant materials. You are on to something he told me. Keep going…

As the story goes I did keep going. My thesis topic rejection was eventually reversed and I published my thesis entitled “National Security in the Information Age”. Dan was one of the most prolific distributors of my thesis. Copies wound up in the hands of officers going through his program, DOD leadership, local think tanks, and contractors. Dan even forwarded my thesis to one of the gentlemen that would eventually give me my first job.

When I moved to DC, Dan and I became friends. He continued to introduce me to his network and I started to occasionally lecture to his students at NDU. In 1996 he awarded myself and two colleagues the prestigious Sun Tzu research award for our paper “Information Terrorism: Can You Trust Your Toaster?”. As recently as the past year, Dan was still cracking Internet of Things toaster jokes.

Over the past 20 years we’ve continued to see each other a few times per year. Every time I see Dan, his enthusiasm and energy puts a smile on my face. He is a friend I am always happy to see, even after the 500th time I heard him say “well, I’m a historian, but…”

Following Dan’s lead, I’ve always taken the time to meet with students or folks early in their career to offer advice, encouragement, and even recommendations for employment. It has had a pay it forward butterfly effect that has resulted in hundreds of meetings over the past twenty years and continues to shape the world in important ways. Perhaps I would have taken the time out of my schedule for those meetings regardless, but I like to think it is what Dan taught me.