Oct 062011
Authors: Erin Udell

Professor emeritus Johannes Gessler, who joined CSU’s civil engineering department in 1966, has taught and advised many students throughout his decades at the university — 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-Awlaki’s advisor from 1991 to 1994, what do you remember about him?

Gessler: He was like any other student—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 didn’t see any signs. We didn’t keep in touch (after he graduated). In contrast to other students, it’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.

News Editor Erin Udell can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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