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March 4, 2004

Obituary: Thomas J. Galvin

galvinThomas J. Galvin, former dean of the School of Information Sciences (SIS), died in Chicago on Feb. 18, 2004, following a long illness. He was 71.

During his 1974-1985 tenure as dean, the information sciences school more than doubled its enrollment, added 10 degrees and a certificate program, and increased its annual budget from $775,000 to $2.5 million.

Galvin led the way in developing SIS’s information science programs, making the school at that time the largest, most diversified school of the information professions in the world.

According to former Pitt faculty member Blanche Woolls, Galvin’s “ability to bring together five units within the University into a cooperative telecommunications program seated in the school was a major coup for the school. What SIS is today is because of the legacy that Tom built in the 11 years he was there.”

Woolls, who taught at SIS from 1973 to 1997 and is former chair of the then-Department of Library Science, added, “Tom was serious about library education, the high regard in which our program was held at the University and the achievements of everyone involved in the school. One thing he often said as dean when hearing about our successes: ‘You make me look good.’”

Born in Arlington, Mass., Galvin received an A.B. degree with distinction in English in 1954 from Columbia University, an M.L.S. from Simmons College in 1956 and a Ph.D. in library and information science from Case Western Reserve University in 1973. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Beta Phi Mu.

Known for his expertise in referencing, Galvin began his career in 1954 as a reference librarian at Boston University.

He served as chief librarian at the Abbot Public Library, Marblehead, Mass., 1956-1959, then became assistant director of libraries at Simmons College. In 1962, he joined the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Simmons. He was named associate dean and professor there in 1972, before coming to Pitt in 1974.

Colleague Margaret M. Kimmel credits Galvin, whom she met when he was at Simmons, with launching her career. “He’s the reason I’m teaching today. He was my mentor and he urged me to get a Ph.D., despite my reluctance. He was a very good friend and a leader in the field, with a fine grasp of the political aspects of the field and of the University in his capacity as dean,” added Kimmel, who is professor and chair of the Department of Library and Information Science.

Following his deanship at SIS, Galvin served as executive director of the American Library Association (ALA) until 1989. He had been president of ALA in 1979-1980 and at the time of his departure from ALA as executive director, he was one of only seven people who had served in both capacities.

In 1989, he went to the State University of New York in Albany as professor of information science and policy at the Nelson A. Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy. He also was the director of SUNY-Albany’s interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in information science until he retired in 1999.

Galvin received the ALISE Award for Professional Contributions to Library and Information Sciences Education in 1993. In 1985 he received the Distinguished Service Award of the Pennsylvania Library Association. He was cited by the American Society for Information Science in 1979 for the best information science book of the year. Other honors included the ALA’s Isadore Gilbert Mudge Citation, and distinguished alumnus awards from Simmons College and Case Western Reserve University.

Galvin was thoughtful, widely read and had a wry sense of humor, said Kimmel. “He had a way of looking at the world that was not based on cynicism, but he was able to see the foibles of people, including himself, and laugh about them.”

He particularly enjoyed poetry, Kimmel said, and his favorite quotation, which he cited often, was from T.S. Eliot’s “The Four Quartets”:

We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.

Galvin is survived by his wife, Marie; a daughter, Siobhan Wee, and a grandson, Thomas Wee, all of Chicago.

A scholarship is being established at SIS in Galvin’s name.

—Peter Hart

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