By SUSAN JONES
Patrick Gallagher, Pitt’s 18th chancellor, announced today that he will step down in summer 2023 from the position he’s held since 2014.
In his message to the Pitt community, Gallagher said the decision was “based on purely personal considerations,” and not prompted by a new employment opportunity, an external event or crisis, or a move into retirement.
Gallagher, who is 59, said he is “still a bit young to contemplate retirement; I am in good health; and I am not leaving Pitt to take another position. I have been privileged to serve with the steady and strong support from our Board of Trustees and — of vital importance to me — I hope to maintain your trust and confidence, as well.
“Serving as chancellor at one of the greatest public research universities in the nation is deeply fulfilling and rewarding,” he said. “The job is also very demanding, extraordinarily public-facing, and it can be all-consuming to do well, consistently, for a long period of time. It is important that I exit this post before my energy, commitment, and attention to the work at hand wanes — a move that would be detrimental both to me and to the broader University.”
Gallagher has a Ph.D. in physics from Pitt and plans to transition to the faculty as a professor in Department of Physics and Astronomy.
Senate President Robin Kear said: "The University Senate is saddened to learn of Chancellor Gallagher’s personal decision to step down. ... We deeply appreciate all that he has achieved for Pitt during his tenure. We are particularly grateful for the chancellor’s commitment to shared governance and we have enjoyed working through issues of importance with him. We are glad to hear he will be remaining with Pitt and wish him all the best in his new role. We anticipate a smooth transition to new leadership during the next academic year."
In his message, Gallagher said he will leave after his successor is found. "It is my hope that this early announcement provides plenty of time to ensure a smooth and effective transition period for the University."
Former Senate President Chris Bonneau said he was surprised by the announcement. "Pitt benefited immensely from the leadership of Chancellor Gallagher, especially during the pandemic. His commitment to shared governance and involving the faculty at every decision point resulted in the protection of jobs, benefits, and the health of the Pitt community. With any change comes uncertainty, and I hope the next chancellor displays this same commitment."
Staff Council President Angie Coldren said she has enjoyed working with Chancellor Gallagher and looks forward to continuing to work with him for the next year. “The University of Pittsburgh continues to be a leader in education, research and community partnerships. Our dedicated faculty, staff and students worked collectively with Chancellor Gallagher to make Pitt well-positioned for a bright future. … I admire and respect his decision to step down and to keep with his promises and pursue his love of teaching by returning to the classroom. Maybe one of my boys will have him as a professor one day.”
Student Government Board President Harshitha Ramanan told The Pitt News the board is saddened that Gallagher will leave his role, and said they have “fond memories” of working with him on projects.
“In my time in SGB, working with the chancellor has been a really rewarding experience,” Ramanan said. “Although it was a surprise to hear that he plans on stepping down next summer, I am excited for all his future students because I am sure he is going to be a great professor and he definitely has a lot of wisdom to impart on students from all of his experience.”
Gallagher came to Pitt after stints, under President Barack Obama, as director of the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology and as acting deputy secretary of Commerce. He succeeded Mark Nordenberg, who served as chancellor from 1996 to 2014.
He took over at Pitt near the end of Tom Corbett’s term as governor of Pennsylvania, which saw drastic funding cuts to the state’s public universities, including Pitt. There were steady increases in state funding between 2014 and 2019, but last year Paul Supowitz, vice chancellor for government relation, said Pitt is still not up to the funding levels it received before the 2008 recession and the cuts during the Corbett administration.
This year, Gallagher is pushing hard to preserve state funding for Pitt, which has come under fire from some in the Republican House caucus, who the chancellor said, “are using unrelated issues as political bargaining chips to justify a failure to support Pitt students.” State funding is used exclusively for tuition discounts for in-state students
Gallagher has led the University through some dramatic changes and set the stage for more to come. And he has navigated some controversies and trying times during his tenure, including the past two years under the pandemic.
By the time Gallagher steps down, all of the deans in both the provost and senior vice chancellor for health sciences areas will have changed — searches are ongoing for new deans of business, nursing, pharmacy and the School of Computing and Information with replacements expected before this fall.
The University’s senior leadership team also is all new since 2014, and includes several people Gallagher worked with at the Commerce Department.
“Transitions like this can be times of uncertainty, but they are also moments of opportunity,” Gallagher said in his message. “Pitt is a remarkable university and thriving in so many important ways. While change can be uncomfortable, we are facing it together — from a position of amazing strength — and I am confident that Pitt’s best days still lie ahead of us. It has been the honor of my life to have served the University in this role.”
In 2020, Gallagher’s total compensation package of $732,184 — with a base pay of $675,466, plus nontaxable benefits such as medical and life insurance — ranked 57th among executive compensation packages for 242 public universities, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
The previous year, Gallagher was sixth highest on the list because of a one-time deferred payment in July 2019 of $100,000 for each year he had served at Pitt, totaling $500,000.
Like most other University employees, Gallagher received no pay raise in 2020 because of financial constraints caused by the pandemic. The chancellor donated 20 percent of his 2020-21 salary toward the general scholarship fund, which provides tuition assistance to Pitt students. Members of his senior leadership team also donated a portion of their salaries.
He will join leaders of two other state-related universities in stepping down. Eric Barron, Penn State president for eight years, is retiring next month, and Neeli Bendapudi, University of Louisville president, will replace him. Long-time Temple President Richard Englert retired last year and was replaced by Jason Wingard, former vice dean of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Plan for Pitt: He set in motion the first strategic Plan for Pitt in 2016 and launched its update in 2020, which the University is just now putting into action.
Pitt Seed Project: Now in its fifth funding cycle, this project aids faculty and staff in developing ideas that will advance the Pitt’s strategic plan and have a systemwide impact.
Diversity: The Office of Diversity, and Inclusion was established in 2015, and Pitt has led an ever-growing Diversity Forum annually for the past several years. Diversity initiatives have included several cluster hires and setting a goal of increasing the Black undergraduate population on the Oakland campus within five years. The office was rebranded the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in 2020.
Preventing sexual misconduct: In 2019, the chancellor launched a community-driven response to preventing sexual misconduct at Pitt that included a new task force and a special Pitt Seed funding cycle.
Sustainability: Pitt’s Office of Sustainability was established in July 2018, with executive director Aurora Sharrard, to centralize campus-wide sustainability activities, strategies and partnerships. Pitt has since pledged to become carbon neutral by 2037, the University’s 250th anniversary and has developed a Climate Action Plan that was released last month.
Pitt Success: This program established in 2019 includes the Pell Match Program, which matches students’ Pell grants dollar for dollar, and the Panthers Forward program, which helps graduating students reduced the loan debt and asks them to “pay it forward” by donating to the program at a later date, along with other initiatives.
Campus Master Plan: Pitt released a campus master plan in 2018, which included ambitious plans for new buildings on the Oakland campus. Construction on the first of these, the Wellness and Recreation Center, is expected to start later this year. In its Institutional Master Plan required by the city of Pittsburgh, the University said it is anticipating 5 to 10 percent growth in the next 10 years, which will lead to a greater need for student housing.
Victory Heights: This ambitious program announced in January 2020 will rehabilitate and construct new sports facilities on upper campus, starting with a new arena next to the Petersen Events Center.
New schools: Under Gallagher, Pitt added its first new school in two decades — the School of Computing and Information in 2017 — and new undergraduate programs in public health and education, which will enroll their first classes this fall.
COVID-19 pandemic: Like universities everywhere, the pandemic created challenges at Pitt like no other over the past two years. From the initial shutdown of most of Pitt’s operations in March 2020 to reopening the campuses in fall of that year to dealing with multiple surges in the disease and controversies on vaccine and masking requirements, Gallagher has been deeply involved in the decision making. He created the Healthcare Advisory Group and the COVID-19 Medical Response Office to help guide Pitt’s decisions related to the pandemic. Unlike some other large universities, Pitt has kept its COVID-19 case numbers relatively low since students began to return in August 2020.
Socially Responsible Investing: In January 2018, Gallagher established a committee to examine socially responsible investing as it relates to Pitt’s investment portfolio. He used the report to develop criteria to evaluate investments. Groups like Fossil Free Pitt continue to advocate for Pitt to divest immediately from any investments related to fossil fuels, but the Board of Trustees has adopted a slow approach to divest by 2035.
Unions: Long-fought campaigns for a graduate student union and a faculty union came to a head under Gallagher’s tenure. The graduate student union, which Pitt had said it was not in favor of, ultimately failed to receive enough votes in a 2019 election. Faculty voted overwhelmingly last year to unionize following a multi-year legal dispute between the University’s legal representatives and the United Steelworkers over the size of the proposed bargaining unit.
New budget model: Pitt is in the midst of transitioning to a hybrid version of a responsibility-centered budget model, which puts more control in the hands of each school. Some of the decisions about how the budget model will work have been complicated by the faculty union vote, leaving some in shared governance frustrated.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-244-4042.
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