Remembering Paul D. Gallagher

The following message was sent from President Mark B. Rosenberg to the FIU community on July 31, 2013:

Dear FIU family:Gallagher

We are profoundly saddened to share with you that one of FIU’s legendary leaders —Paul D. Gallagher— passed away on July 30, 2013 at home in St. Augustine, Florida. He was a friend, a mentor and a colleague of four decades. His passing leaves a void in our hearts. He will be remembered as much for his many accomplishments as for his good-natured humor and kindness.

This news comes as a shock to all of us. At the age of 68, Paul succumbed to an aggressive cancer that was diagnosed earlier this month.

Paul served FIU with distinction from 1971 to 2007, when he “retired” to spend more time with his wife, Jo, who herself served on FIU’s faculty in the College of Education. Although he stepped aside from FIU in 2007, he never really left the institution, and quickly returned to help President Emeritus Modesto A. Maidique develop the Center for Leadership, where he served as Faculty Director of the Miami-Dade County Schools’ Principals Leadership Development Program. In this capacity, he took responsibility for curriculum and mentoring of school principals, many of whom were receiving their first formal training in leadership.

Paul came to FIU after studying psychology at Penn State University and earning a master’s and Ph.D. in educational research from Florida State University. He dedicated his career to helping FIU grow and expand. In time, he served in just about every vice presidency in existence at FIU—an honor few in higher education can claim. One of his first posts at FIU was associate dean for education, then as associate vice president for academic affairs, and as acting provost. While in the Office of the Provost, he worked closely with the then new President Modesto A. Maidique to transition the university into a focused research-oriented institution. He then moved to vice president for the North Campus (Biscayne Bay), then vice president for student affairs, then vice president for advancement—where he led FIU’s successful $275 million fundraising campaign and helped to develop and expand the FIU Foundation, Inc.

In 1998 he assumed duties as the senior vice president for business and finance, followed by service as senior vice president and chief of staff in the Office of the President. Paul retired as Senior Vice President, Emeritus. During his years at FIU, Paul was routinely tapped to take on the new projects, move in a new direction, provide leadership to get us to the next level. And he always got it done with a big smile on his face.

He leaves a trail of accomplishments, having been involved in every major initiative that moved the institution forward, beginning with the development of the Comprehensive University Presence (CUP) program that ushered in advanced and doctoral degrees at FIU in the 1980s, to the initiation and development of two strategic plans that helped to shape FIU in the 1990s and early 2000s (Reaching for the Top, and the Millennium Strategic Plan). Almost every construction project at FIU has had Paul’s distinct touch—including the Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ Carlos Finlay Elementary School on the northwest corner of the Modesto A. Maidique Campus, which he helped to negotiate.

Paul was involved in the work that led to creation of both the College of Law and the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. He was a major force in the addition of residence halls to the university and played a leading role in the steps culminating with the transition to Division I intercollegiate sports and the creation of the FIU football program. The creation of the football program was perhaps his proudest accomplishment.

In its relatively short history, few at FIU have done as much to develop the institution as Paul. His love for life and for FIU impacted most of our 200,000 alumni, faculty and staff. He had a friendly word for everyone who passed his way, his easy smile was infectious and his trademark “Hello sunshine” could light up a room.

He was well known for “vacation” days: he would announce days in advance that he would be “off” on a given day, only to show up on that day with a sheepish grin proudly declaring himself “on vacation” only to work the full day as any other. That was his way of demonstrating his love for the institution and his commitment to his fellow-staff professionals.

Paul’s legacies are too many to enumerate and his absence will be felt by so many of us who still relied on him for perspective and advice. Our deepest condolences go out to his wife Jo, and his daughter Jennifer, both of whom he deeply loved and was fiercely and justifiably proud of. There is little consolation for this loss, except that if as one observer noted, “the idea is to die young as late as possible,” that Paul Gallagher, our friend, personified this idea.

We will plan a memorial service in honor for Paul in the fall when all members of the university community are back on campus and we are able to appropriately honor one of the giants of FIU’s history.


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Mark B. Rosenberg