Professor emeritus Johannes Gessler, who joined CSUâ€™s civil engineering department in 1966, has taught and advised many students throughout his decades at the university â€” including former Al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed late last week in a CIA-led U.S. drone strike in Yemen.
Collegian: As al-Awlakiâ€™s advisor from 1991 to 1994, what do you remember about him?
Gessler: He was like any other studentâ€”nice, came in to plan courses every semester. Nothing was out of the ordinary.
C: What was your initial reaction when you found out about his affiliations with terrorist groups?
G: The shock really was that he was involved in Al Qaeda. I know a few people who knew Anwar even better than I did and they didnâ€™t see any signs. We didnâ€™t keep in touch (after he graduated). In contrast to other students, itâ€™s not unusual for students to keep in touch, but not him.
C: How did you feel when you found out he had been killed? Did you think it was ethical?
G: In my opinion as whether or not that was the right thing to do, I think when the police catch somebody committing a crime, they would shoot, too.
C: Was there anything about al-Awlaki that stood out in your years as his advisor?
G: The most extraordinary thing is that there was nothing extraordinary about him. He blended in perfectly.
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