I don’t know when I first met Becky, but it was certainly in the 1990s. I know that when she and I served on an NSF review panel for Carl Landwehr in the early 2000s, I had already known her forever. Few of the academics in that review panel knew her, but having come from the old-time infosec community she and I were kindred spirits, and we hung out together and compared notes, trying to figure out how to get the academics to understand what industry was already doing.
I continued over the years to see Becky at conferences and events. Her southern drawl saying “Lawdy Lawdy” and shaking her head with a big smile was always a welcome sign that her warmth and intellect were there to be shared.
A decade or so later, I joined NSF to lead what had become known as “cybersecurity”. When a colleague (Anita Nikolich) asked me how to jump start efforts to transition academic research efforts to commercial practice, there was only one name to suggest: Becky. Anita was surprised that I only had one suggestion, but she quickly became enamored of Becky’s ability to bring all the players together, and help them see the way to transition.
So it was no surprise when Anita asked Becky to serve on an NSF review panel about a month ago, and (having recently returned to NSF in a management role) I stopped by to welcome the panelists, and especially chat with Becky. As it happened, I joined the review panel members for dinner, and I was seated across from Becky. We talked technology, and inevitably discussed the impact of the Trump administration on science. We talked about the need for more women in the field, and the scholarship program I had started to try to address that problem (SWSIS, which I am honored was chosen by the family to receive donations in her memory). The younger faculty sitting with us didn’t know her history, but it slowly came out, as we talked about intrusion detection, NSA, In-Q-Tel, and many other topics. And for the first time in my experience with Becky, we talked about experiencing discrimination growing up, and I learned how her Japanese-American heritage forced her to work harder to overcome bias. Becky and I walked back towards her hotel and I headed off for Metro, never thinking I would never see her again.
Becky was truly infomom – there will never be another like her. In Jewish tradition, everyone, regardless of religion, has an obligation to leave the world a better place than it was when they entered, a concept known as tikkun olam. Becky’s moral leadership, encouragement of young people, and vision are her tikkun olam, and one that all of us should aspire to match.