A Tribute to Dennis Barlow

by John Noftsinger [ James Madison University ]

Congratulations to you on a job well done, Dennis, and on your appointment, Ken. Best wishes to you both as you take up the next steps in your careers.
- Tim Caughley, UNIDIR, Switzerland
Goodbye, Dennis. You are really a trustworthy man who served the MAIC very well. I feel
very sad for your retirement.
- Mohamed Ould Nema National Chief of Staff, Organizing and Planning Bureau, Mauritania






When I first met Dennis Barlow in the Senate Armed Services Conference Room on Capitol Hill in February 1996, he was dressed in his U.S. Army uniform. He had been summoned from his Pentagon office by Virginia’s Senior Senator John Warner to meet with James Madison University’s then-President Dr. Ronald Carrier and me. We engaged him in conversation, explained our purpose for the meeting and explored several ideas.

JMU had developed a new Integrated Science and Technology curriculum, and we were seeking a real-world, global, interdisciplinary and technologically challenging issue on which to focus. The global problem of landmines and explosive remnants of war was the perfect challenge for our new program to engage the university’s talented faculty, staff and students.

COL (Ret.) Dennis Barlow addresses the closing session of the Humanitarian Demining Planning Workshop in Bogotá, Colombia, 2009.
COL (Ret.) Dennis Barlow addresses the closing session of the Humanitarian Demining Planning Workshop in Bogotá, Colombia, 2009.
All photos courtesy of MAIC

As Assistant to President Carrier, I was tasked with conceptualizing and securing funding for a new center to address the landmine/ERW-remediation issue. On learning that Colonel Dennis Barlow had retired from the U.S. Army and that he had an affinity for Civil War battlefields, the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley, I quickly moved to have him appointed as the founding Director of the Humanitarian Demining Information Center at JMU. It was a most fortunate decision for JMU and the global landmine community.

Although the name later changed to the Mine Action Information Center and has now evolved into the Center for International Stabilization and Recovery, the one constant over the last 15 years has been the humble and steady leadership of Dennis Barlow. Two and a half years ago, I was asked to supervise the MAIC; I readily accepted the chance to work closely with Dennis and his talented staff, and ultimately to bookend his career at JMU.

I recently accompanied Dennis to Jordan to contribute to Jordan’s National Committee for Demining and Rehabilitation’s ERW training efforts the CISR/MAIC has been supporting. The skills that made him and the Center successful were on subtle, yet effective, display. As always, Dennis brought the right people together to move an issue forward, engaged the participants in lively conversation about the issue, and then gently moved out of the way as others found solutions. Throughout his long and distinguished career, he solved many delicate and diplomatic challenges with this understated, deliberate approach. On the other hand, he could also be blunt and pointed in private, including—and especially with—his supervisors. I learned to appreciate and seek his honest and experienced counsel.

Participants and MAIC staff during the 2006 United Nations Development Programme-funded Senior Managers’ Course in Mine Action, hosted by MAIC at James Madison University. COL (Ret.) Barlow is standing in the last row, far right.
Participants and MAIC staff during the 2006 United Nations Development Programme-funded Senior Managers’ Course in Mine Action, hosted by MAIC at James Madison University. COL (Ret.) Barlow is standing in the last row, far right.

Dennis creatively built a community of practice in this challenging and important area. The CISR/MAIC is highly regarded as a hub for knowledge and information about landmines and ERW. The Journal and the CISR/MAIC Web sites vividly illustrate the organization’s success. Over and over, the MAIC and Dennis Barlow have been sought out to lead conferences and workshops, develop curricula and informational materials, and do whatever is necessary—wherever necessary—to move mine action forward. His recent work with the Humanitarian Demining Workshop in Bogotá, Colombia, and multiple projects in Amman, Jordan, are capstones on an illustrious, global career and just the tip of the iceberg of Dennis’ and MAIC’s efforts.

Having finished reading the latest edition (Fall 2009) of The Journal of ERW and Mine Action, I had an unexpected thought that I should write to you and your associates to thank you for the information, insight and great stimulus that The Journal has been for me over the 15 years [that] I, [like Dennis Barlow], have been involved with the Ban Mine Campaign. Although I have [also] moved on, I still try to be of assistance from the sidelines to both the Thailand Mine Action Center and the Thailand Campaign to Ban Landmines.
~- Emilie Ketudat, TCBL, Thailand
All told, Dennis has overseen more than US$15 million in projects at CISR/MAIC since 1996. While this sum may not necessarily inspire “shock and awe,” one must remember that CISR/MAIC has worked with dozens of organizations and governments, conducted trainings for hundreds involved in mine action, and engaged in mine-risk-education and victim-assistance work that will benefit thousands.

Good luck and farewell. Rest assured, you are leaving the role to one of the best.
- Lou McGrath, MAG, United Kingdom
Dennis is always quick to credit the excellent staff he has assembled, but it takes vision, leadership, creativity and a tireless spirit at the top to build the world-class program he has. Dennis never sought the limelight and was always willing to take a back seat, generally insisting that somebody else should be at the head table. However, today I would like to take the opportunity to laud him as he deserves.

COL (Ret.) Barlow (right) turns over the reins of MAIC/CISR to Dr. Ken Rutherford, February 2010.
COL (Ret.) Barlow (right) turns over the reins of MAIC/CISR to Dr. Ken Rutherford, February 2010.

After 15 years of dedicated service, Dennis retired on 1 February 2010. He leaves a strong program with the CISR/MAIC and an exciting new platform with the Center in the capable hands of Dr. Ken Rutherford, who is already making his mark. Dennis also leaves an important example to JMU of how to develop and sustain a distinguished international program, and how to develop a global community of practice around a vital humanitarian issue. The readers of The Journal will know best about the vibrant community of practice Dennis has empowered and nurtured. It is time for Dennis Barlow to take a much-deserved bow for this tremendous body of knowledge he has spearheaded in the international community. He will be missed but not forgotten as we work together to alleviate the effects of war. J

Editor’s Note: Contrary to the assertion made in several of the callouts from well wishers, neither The Journal of ERW and Mine Action, nor the Center for International Stabilization and Recovery promote the mine ban or any other issue. By publishing comments provided to us by our faithful readers, we present both sides of arguments, objective information and topical issues, and allow our readers to form their own opinions.

I much enjoyed your friendship, dedication to mine action and, most importantly, your honesty over the years we worked together. Yes, you did meet some scoundrels--didn’t we all? But far more in number were the truly committed, well-meaning guys and girls that dug in and worked hard in spite of the politics, bureaucracy and backstabbing that seemed to come with the environment. It looks like you have chosen your successor well. I salute you.
~ - Jim Prudhomme, formerly with
UNDP Mine Action,
Senior Technical Advisor

A word of thanks and appreciation to Dennis Barlow and his colleagues and their predecessors at James Madison University for the years of service to the community working for a ban on landmines, for the promotion of mine clearance, and especially for their support of the survivors through The Journal. Welcome to Ken Rutherford, already known and well-respected.
-~Patricia Pak Poy, Australian Network to Ban Landmines, Australia











John NoftsingerJohn B. Noftsinger, Jr., Ed.D., is the Vice Provost for Research and Public Service at James Madison University. Prior to this position, he served as the Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs for Research and Public Service for nine years. Additionally, Noftsinger serves as Executive Director of the Institute for Infrastructure and Information Assurance and Professor of Integrated Science and Technology and Strategic Leadership. He also serves as President and Chair of James Madison Innovations. He has spearheaded the successful development, funding and implementation of a variety of key programs at JMU, including the Center for International Stabilization and Recovery.

Contact Information

John B. Noftsinger, Jr., Ed.D.
Vice Provost for Research
and Public Service
James Madison University
800 South Main Street, MSC 4107
Harrisonburg, VA 22807 / USA
Tel: +1 540 568 2700
Fax: +1 540 568 1784
E-mail: noftsijb@jmu.edu
Web site: http://www.jmu.edu/research