Pitt plans to name chancellor today

The University of Pittsburgh trustees today are expected to vote to name a new chancellor, Patrick D. Gallagher, a top U.S. Department of Commerce official who holds a doctorate in physics from Pitt and was its 2013 April commencement speaker.

According to multiple sources Friday, the trustees will vote in a special meeting in favor of hiring Mr. Gallagher, 49, who is director of the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology. He will replace chancellor Mark Nordenberg, who in June announced he will step down on Aug. 1.

Mr. Nordenberg, former dean of the Pitt School of Law, will teach at Pitt and be involved in unspecified civic initiatives. When he leaves his post, he will have spent 37 years at Pitt, including 19 as chancellor.

The board has a special meeting at 9:30 a.m., a news conference will follow the meeting and a compensation committee meeting will take place at 4 p.m.

In a news release announcing Mr. Gallagher's choice as commencement speaker, Mr. Nordenberg said, "Dr. Gallagher is one of our truly distinguished and most nationally visible graduates.

"Among other things, he has been a champion of the mission of our nation's research universities in educating future generations of teachers, business leaders, physicians and scientists.

"As director of the National Institute for Standards and Technology, he also recognizes that research universities play a key role in the technological innovation and medical and scientific research that have helped fuel the economic growth of our nation."

In his 2013 commencement speech as posted by NIST, Mr. Gallagher said, "This is the city where my mother grew up, where my family was born, where I spent a lot of my childhood. In fact, I spent part of second grade here, met my wife here, developed by preferences in professional sports here."

Mr. Gallagher earned a master's degree in 1987 and a doctorate in 1991, both at Pitt, under the direction of James Maher, now-provost emeritus and the vice chair of the chancellor search committee.

In the commencement speech, Mr. Gallagher said he thought Mr. Maher, who attended his wedding, gave him an alarm clock as a wedding gift "which says something about me, I think."

Mr. Gallagher arrived at Pitt in 1986 after earning a bachelor's degree in physics and philosophy at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., in 1985 and after teaching high school math and science in Missouri.

After Pitt, Mr. Gallagher did postdoctoral work at Boston University and then was hired by NIST in 1993, initially as a research physicist and instrument scientist at the NIST Center for Neutron Research. He has been with NIST ever since, rising to his current position in 2009.

According to the NIST website, NIST, which has a $778 million annual budget, is charged with promoting American "innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards and technology."

In October 2009, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation conducted a hearing on his nomination to the director post.

In his statement to the committee, Mr. Gallagher described himself this way: "I am a life-long scientist. I believe in the power of both basic research and of standardization to propel economic growth and improve our standards of living. I am committed to public service."

He noted his wife, Karen, and three sons and gave a Maryland address.

In his list of scientific journal articles provided to the committee, two are co-authored with Mr. Maher.

At the Senate hearing, Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., noted Mr. Gallagher grew up with three sisters and his parents in Albuquerque and his scientific aptitude may have come from his father, who moved to New Mexico in the 1960s to work at Sandia National Laboratory.

"As a young man in Albuquerque, Dr. Gallagher developed a strong commitment to public service that continues to this day." He joined the volunteer organization Amigos de los Omaticas and spent summers working on public health and sanitation projects in Ecuador, Honduras and Mexico.

Mr. Udall called NIST an "often-unappreciated agency" but said "its work enhances our quality of life in many ways. Numerous products and services rely in some way on technology, measurement and standards provided by NIST."

He gave examples such as ATM machines, bulletproof vests and medical diagnostic tools, including X-rays and mammograms.

In his statement to the committee in 2009, Mr. Gallagher said, "Many of the technologies and measurements that we take for granted today are based on results of ground-breaking research at NIST and the transfer of technology and know-how into practice. Radio and telecommunications, radar, lasers, household smoke detectors and computers are a few examples from a very long list ...

"Today NIST is deeply engaged in some of the most urgent and critical challenges facing our country, including the smart grid, cybersecurity, electronic health records, climate change and promoting manufacturing in this country."

The 25-member search committee is headed by Eva Tansky Blum, who is executive vice president and director, community affairs, for PNC Bank and is chair and president of The PNC Foundation.

Pitt hired the executive search firm of Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates to assist with the search.

Education writer Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955.

First Published February 8, 2014 2:30 AM

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