Dan Unkefer, our Chief of Instruction said “If you need a straight, make a straight.” I had been sitting in on an HPDE classroom session of his. I was there because, as the regional director, I wanted to experience the same thing our members were. What he meant was that if you somehow found yourself not able to turn in at the preferred turn-in point on track that there was no need to panic. There was still track surface left that one could use. Dan knew that mental barriers could be more significant than physical ones. In that one phrase Dan accomplished two things. He made them aware that there was more track surface out there than the “line”, giving them a practical solution to a mistake they might make. More importantly he gave them permission to shake the mental confines of the line, relax and have fun. I really hadn’t planned on learning something about driving in that session but it was impossible NOT to learn something when Dan spoke. That classroom session was 12 years ago and his statement still echoes in my head.
Dan said many things that stuck with many MANY people. It is with a heavy heart that I come to the realization that I will not have another opportunity to learn any more from this wonderful man.
Dan touched so many of us. There are thousands that have been influenced by his words and actions. He made life better for those around him. His passion fueled his desire to learn and his compassion fueled his desire to pass along his knowledge.
At 5:45pm on Saturday evening NASA Mid Atlantic lost a teacher, a cheerleader, a wealth of knowledge and faithful Cyrenaic.
I lost a friend.
He will be incredibly missed.
The quickest way between two points is a straight line and while I’m sure that God has laid out Dan’s route as a straight away he may have to be patient because I’m fairly certain Dan will opt for some hairpins and fast sweepers.
Godspeed, my friend.
and the NASA family