Jere Gallagher, former associate dean in the School of Education known for her dedication and hard work in a sometimes-unheralded job, died Aug. 20, 2019, at 70.
John Jakicic, current chair of the school department where Gallagher was a faculty member — Health and Physical Activity — was a graduate student in the early 1990s and remembered Gallagher as a professor. “Talk about high energy!” he said. “Sure, there was a lecture, but she tried to get students actively engaged in their learning process, with hands-on activity, far before that became the way (of education generally).”
Jakicic experienced her administrative side as well, when he joined the faculty in 2002: “She was constantly advocating for students, student involvement, student experiences, both in and outside the classroom,” he said. “She always tried to be very fair and equitable to her students; when students had special circumstances, she would always find a solution to help students to thrive.” In administrative meetings, he recalled, “She was always the one who brought up, ‘Yeah, but what about the students?’ ”
Gallagher created the department’s Kinder Kinetics Program for kids ages 3-12 and ran it for a quarter century. It was designed to promote not just more physical activity but the right kind of healthy movement, especially among underserved children and those with physical and cognitive/emotional disabilities. After Gallagher’s retirement, the program was renamed Pitt’s Kids: Honoring the Vision of Dr. Jere Gallagher.
Alan Lesgold, former Renée and Richard Goldman dean (2000-16) of the School of Education, recalled her ability to adapt to changing academic trends. When child development was moved from the school’s Health and Physical Activities Department, for instance, Gallagher “worked extremely hard to assure that every one of her doctoral students was able to continue and complete the doctoral degree. I also never heard her complain that her own area of interest had been pushed aside.”
He also remembered her taking on fresh duties unasked: “She dramatically improved the quality of the alumni magazine … and turned it into the kind of alumni magazine that schools do when they're doing it right.”
He fondly remembered “how responsible and helpful of a person she really was. If there was a problem in the dean’s area, she was the one who kept our spirits up.”
In eulogizing Gallagher last month, Lesgold said: “She was a positive, uplifting spirit, and she cared deeply about the people she encountered and the University of which she was a beloved part.”
He noted that, as the child of Army officers, Gallagher moved often because of her parents’ careers and later chose to honor them by establishing an endowment in Pitt’s Office of Veteran Services.
“Career coaches counsel their clients not to become too useful, lest one get stuck in roles one is ready to outgrow,” he concluded. “Jere was far too altruistic to follow that principle; she was quite indispensable and helpful, even though there were seldom rewards for her efforts.”
Noted Jakicic: “In this day and age, where faculty in many universities jump from place to place, I think she found her place many years ago.” She felt a deep sense of loyalty, he said, “and tried to make this place a better place.”
Gallagher earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in health and physical education from East Carolina University and a Ph.D. in motor development from Louisiana State University. She is survived by her husband of more than 30 years, H. Yale Gutnick; his children, Laura and Todd; and her sister, Salli Gallagher; as well as nieces and nephews.
Memorial gifts are suggested to the University of Pittsburgh Office of Veteran’s Services or the Department of Health and Physical Activity.
— Marty Levine