Terrorism expert retires after almost 50 years at KU

Kansas University Anthropology professor Felix Moos gives his last lecture Monday evening on intelligence and terrorism. Moos has been teaching at KU for 49 years.

Nearly five decades after arriving at Kansas University, KU anthropology professor Felix Moos has seen the world change around him.

An expert on terrorism and intelligence, Moos has taught a class on the anthropology of terrorism at KU for decades.

He gave his final lecture on Monday, speaking without notes, sometimes sprinkling in anecdotes of his 49 years at KU. When Moos began the terrorism course, he, current Lawrence Chief of Police Ron Olin and the late KU psychology professor Maynard Shelly coordinated on the teaching — Olin on a volunteer basis, Moos said.

The class did a host of things that would never be allowed today, Moos said. One “practical exercise” involved taking over a building on campus that housed a nuclear reactor to demonstrate how easy it was.

He stopped bringing in Palestinians and Israelis after a fistfight broke out, but did offer Chechen rebels and a Tamil freedom fighter from Sri Lanka the opportunity to interact with the class.

Moos often chastises his students for not keeping up on world affairs — something he said he’s seen become more of a problem in recent years. He encourages them to read newspapers and to look beyond personalities like “our favorite golfer in Florida.”

Mark Johnson, a retired Army special forces lieutenant colonel, has helped Moos teach his course in recent years. He recalled taking Moos’ terrorism course about 30 years ago.

He said that while speaking Korean served him well, it wasn’t the most useful skill he picked up in college.

“That’ll get you in the door,” Johnson said of being able to speak a language. “It can’t sustain you unless you’re culturally sensitive and culturally aware.”

Moos’ expertise in terrorism was often called upon by governmental leaders — he’s worked with leaders like U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and former CIA director Stansfield Turner, promoting an idea to create ROTC-style programs on college campuses to train national security experts in languages and cultures.

He says Mount Oread probably hasn’t seen the last of him, and he hopes to be able to continue teaching his terrorism course in the future as an emeritus faculty member.

“If you have no passion, why would you teach?” he said.

And his students appreciated it.

Cara DiMarco, a sophomore from Fort Leavenworth, took Moos’ terrorism class this semester, and said she appreciated how Moos would draw upon his vast experience traveling the world and visiting with world leaders to illustrate a point.

“The man is like a god among men,” DiMarco said. “He knows what he’s talking about. He’s visited countries I can only dream about visiting.”

Moos said anthropology needs a refocus on fieldwork, saying it’s impossible to truly know a culture while sitting in Lawrence.

“You don’t know about the world unless you go out and ‘do it,'” he said.