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A Tribute to Don Evans

Many information security professionals have done much good for the information security profession, so many that to single them out would take forever. Some have done so much, however, that they deserve special recognition.  Don Evans of the United Space Alliance is one such individual. Don just retired on June 5, 2008, and although I was not able to attend his retirement ceremony, unfortunately, I would imagine that there were not many dry eyes among the attendees when all the nice things about him were being said. Don is above all else one of the finest human beings I have ever known. He is a living embodiment of kindness, graciousness, honesty, fairness, unselfishness, and personal maturity—a true model for others to follow—yet few professionals have accomplished as much as Don has. Don’s accomplishments include (but are by no means limited to):

  • Being one of the early leaders of the information security/information assurance effort within the NASA community. He did this despite a plethora of obstacles, including political wars, bureaucratic entanglements, lack of funding, lack of staffing, and (much too often) widespread ignorance and apathy.
  • Contributing significantly to the development of the Generally Accepted Security Principles (now called the Generally Accepted System Security Principles or GAISSP). These principles represent that most fundamental and important concepts in the field of information security. No one could have identified and communicated these principles better than Don.
  • Helping get the CISSP certification effort started and sustaining it long afterwards. The success of CISSP certification has been phenomenal, and no one worked harder to achieve this level of success than did Don.
  • Working tirelessly on conference planning committees. I honestly do not know on how many of such committees Don has served over the decades, but the number must be staggering. I remember speaking at conferences in Houston and Clear Lake, Texas in the late 1980’s, when I had not been in the field of information security all that long. One of the first things I learned was that Don was one of the major figures who organized and ran these conferences.

One thing about Don that earned my utmost level of respect was Don’s ability to remain cool and collected, no matter what the circumstances. He worked behind the scenes on his job and developed a great deal of rapport with senior management. He got what he felt was right without trying to bowl people over, but instead by treating others with unselfishness and respect for them–even those who did not deserve it.

Several years ago Don became seriously ill and almost died. Huge amounts of concern and sympathy surfaced from within the information security community and also elsewhere. Don pulled through his health crisis and now looks ultra healthy. Predictably, Don is going to work a little bit for the NASA community while he is retired. Let’s just hope that he doesn’t work too hard—no one so richly deserves a great retirement as does Don.

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