Harley E. Flack
Richard H. Gallagher
Editor's Choice: Richard H. Gallagher
The University at Buffalo is the starting point for countless careers in dozens of professions. In recent years, three UB graduates -Arthur Levine, Harley E. Flack, Richard H. Gallagher- have crowned their career climbs with appointments as university presidents. Each speaks enthusiastically about his position, candidly about key issues facing higher education, and fondly about his alma mater, and how it helped shape his life.
(UBT Spring 1995)
The 1991 recipient of UB's Clifford C. Furnas Award for distinguished engineering alumni, Richard H. Gallagher, was named president of Clarkson University, Potsdam, New York on July 1, 1988. Gallagher earned his Ph.D. in civil engineering at UB in 1966. He and a classmate earned SUNY's first doctorates in engineering.
"Buffalo was the leader in the state system for engineering," says Gallagher, who spent the first 17 years of his career working at Bell Aerospace in Niagara Falls. In the early '60s, coincident with his employment at Bell, UB began its civil engineering program. "I came to Buffalo in the mid- '50s and worked in design and research at Bell. I had my master's degree (from New York University), which at that time gave one an entréée into teaching. So I taught civil engineering evenings at UB."
One year after completing his doctoral studies, Gallagher joined Cornell University as a professor of civil engineering. Shortly thereafter, he was named chair of Cornell's Department of Structural Engineering. He was dean of engineering at the University of Arizona from 1978 to 1984, and provost at Worcester Polytechnic Institute from 1984 to 1988. "At every step, you widen the scope of things you're involved in," he says. "As a department chair, you're interested in fields of specialization. Then you move on to dean, provost and finally, president."
The position of university president, he explains, is comprehensive, with total responsibility for all academic and administrative issues facing an institute of higher learning. "You're dealing with students, alumni, friends of the school, investments, endowments, labor issues ...," he lists just a few. "No doubt, the challenges as president are the most significant," he concludes.
Foremost among the myriad issues facing everyone involved in higher education, Gallagher states, is cost. "Affordability is very, very critical at private institutions, but certainly not absent at public institutions. It's a very difficult issue," he says. Gallagher has received honorary degrees from the Technical University of Vienna, the University College of Swansea, Wales, and the Shanghai University of Technology. In 1993, he was inducted into the American Society of Engineering Education Hall of Fame, presented with the ASEE Centennial Medallion, and honored with ASEE fellowship status. His credentials list numerous other professional awards and distinctions.
It seems engineering is part of the Gallagher family tradition. All five of Gallagher's children are engineers, one a Clarkson alumnus. Although he has moved to another part of the state, Gallagher says he remembers UB as a place of excellence, instrumental in his choice of a profession. "There were marvelous teachers at the graduate level, where it's so important to combine basic subject material and material on the cutting edge of your field," he states. Specifically, he recalls the late Robert L. Ketter, former UB president, who led the university's efforts for a Ph.D. program in engineering; engineering dean George C. Lee; and professor emeritus Charles Fogel, noting that "they had a great influence on my career."
Diane Zwirecki, a Buffalo-based freelance writer, is assistant director of public relations at Sisters of Charity Hospital.