From the classified room to the classroom, Len Feuerhelm talks of his prior experience in the CIA.
Feuerhelm, who is in his 31st year at Oklahoma Christian University, is the only former CIA member at Oklahoma Christian. He said he did not expect to ever work in the CIA, but in the midst of gaining his masters degree, he heard news of a CIA job opening through Oklahoma State University’s campus newspaper. Soon after he sent his application, he received news of his acceptance.
For three years, Feuerhelm worked in a secure CIA area with classified work. Legally, Feuerhelm could not disclose every detail of his work, other than his specialized area of strategic weapons systems.
“We were trying to determine characteristics for Soviet missiles,” Feuerhelm said. “Working on the strategic weapons system meant I spent a lot of time using high tech computers and equipment. I cannot elaborate very much. I wasn’t even able to take my work home.”
According to Feuerhelm, working for the CIA gave him an appreciation for a government employee’s quality of work and dedication. He said Washington D.C. is not a place many people choose to live, and people are often temporarily stationed there.
“Many of my coworkers viewed their job location as transient,” Feuerhelm said. “In a more social context, Washington D.C. is a place where people are often from somewhere else. I thought having roots [in Oklahoma] was important for my family. Very few people saw their work in the CIA as a permanent occupation.”
After three years in Washington D.C., Feuerhelm said he saw a chance to work in Christian education and jumped at the opportunity. Although it meant a cut in his salary, Feuerhelm said he did not mind. During his first few years teaching, he obtained a doctorate in physics and went to law school.
“I guess you could call me a life-time learner,” Feuerhelm said. “If there was an opportunity to learn, I often went for it. I think that is what it takes to be successful.”
Students of Feuerhelm might not realize he had previous experience in the CIA. Senior Abigael Williams said she heard from another student that Feuerhelm had worked for the government agency.
“Once I learned that Dr. Feuerhelm worked in the CIA, he instantly became one of the coolest professors ever,” Williams said. “I like to think he never shared much in class since it was highly sensitive, confidential work.”
Other students elicited similar responses, but most of Oklahoma Christian are unaware of Feuerhelm’s experience in CIA.
Feuerhelm said he enjoyed getting to know classified information. However, he also said knowing such details led him into situations that made answering questions difficult.
“One time, I was traveling with some students internationally, and we had some down time waiting to get our traveling checks cashed,” Feuerhelm said. “One of my students asked me in a loud voice, ‘Tell us about your experience in the CIA.’ I looked around the room and noticed all the armed bank guards had panicked, so I quieted him down and said, ‘If you want me to get out of this country alive, you need to be quiet.’ After that, I told my students if they were interested in my years in the CIA, they needed to refer to it as ‘the culinary institute of America.’”