Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

February 20, 2014

University Senate Matters: Welcome!

MikeSpringOn Sunday morning, Feb. 9, I received an email from a project officer on a grant I have from the National Institute of Standards and Technology.  It read as follows:  “Michael, Thought you’d like to know about this.  You are getting a GREAT guy!” Attached to the email was Patrick Gallagher’s announcement to the NIST community regarding his appointment as Pitt chancellor.  It talked about the mixed emotions he had given the opportunity presented to him, but also the debt he owed to NIST and the members of that organization.

It was a nice confirmation of my feeling when, along with several other people, I got to spend a little time with Chancellor-elect Gallagher the day before the trustees voted.  It also confirmed an impression I had of the man when he happened to step into a meeting that I was attending at NIST several months ago.  Indeed, I remember thinking as he spoke with some of the research staff at NIST how comfortable he was with his colleagues — much the same as I feel in a room with Chancellor Mark Nordenberg.

All of us have had a half a year to begin to think about the transition to our 18th chancellor.  In our initial meeting with Chancellor-elect Gallagher, he talked about what he sees as the important priorities for Pitt.  Notable among his comments were a clear focus on teamwork, his respect for the Pitt commitment to shared governance and the importance of the community’s overall effort in moving the institution forward. He was frank, quick, direct and decisive in his comments. When asked about his priorities, he indicated his goal was to take the next steps that would present themselves to move Pitt yet further along the trajectory set forward by the administration that has led us over the last 20 years. As I heard it, he asserted that Pitt had moved from a strong university to a national force, and was poised to establish itself as an important international presence. As the current president of the University Senate, I was heartened by his energy, calmness and focus. He does not have a personal agenda as much as he has a vision of wanting to seize the opportunities that will present themselves. Coupled with that is a respect for both the accomplishments of his predecessors and a desire to have them as partners in the coming years.  Personally, I appreciated the fact that he was clearly cognizant of the role of the Senate and interested in working with faculty across the institution.

In these times of often turbulent and disruptive transitions in leadership, Pitt is fortunate to see its “retiring” leaders happy to stay here and work with new colleagues who have the enthusiasm and energy reserved for the younger generation. (I must admit that every time I meet with Chancellor Nordenberg, I marvel at the fact that his energy and enthusiasm still are unbounded after two decades.) I fervently believe that our next chancellor will, as he said in his initial meetings with faculty and staff, continue the great traditions of the leaders we have been fortunate to have over the last 40, and particularly the last 20, years.  As important, he has indicated that he will take advantage of the accumulated wisdom they represent as well as a commitment to sharing the task with the faculty, staff, students and alumni of Pitt. I think we can all be proud of the job done by the search committee.

Michael B. Spring, associate professor in the School of Information Sciences, is president of the University Senate. He can be reached at