- Category: Volume 86 (Fall 2014 - Spring 2015)
- Published: 22 October 2014
- Written by BRANDON JOHNSON | POLITICS EDITOR
Students and faculty welcomed alumnus Thomas P. Gallagher in Wilson Auditorium on Oct. 8, prior to Gallagher accepting the Distinguished Alumni Award at Monmouth's 81st Founderss Day celebration. Gallagher, a graduate from the Class of 1962, held a presentation in which he discussed his experiences after leaving Monmouth, specifically those involving his civil service.
A former political science major, Gallagher made an early commitment to civil service, joining the inaugural group of Peace Corps volunteers. He recalled, "Five days after I graduated from Monmouth, I hopped in a plane in Newark to Georgetown University to start my Peace Corps training."
Eventually, his volunteer work transitioned into a full time position, and Gallagher began working in the U.S. State Department. At this point in his career, Gallagher became well aware of the risk involved in humanitarian work. In 1967, he was stationed in Saudi Arabia during the Six-Day war, which saw every US embassy attacked, except for his.
After his Saudi assignment, Gallagher was stationed in Nigeria, tasked with assisting Kaduna during the Biafran War. Gallagher said, "It was an amazing experience of a world gone bad."
His service in Africa extended beyond advisory roles, as Gallagher also made efforts to work with students from where he served. Upon returning to the US after his stint in Nigeria, Gallagher ventured to North Carolina, where he helped establish the one of the largest track events of the time, the Pan African USA National Track Meet. This gathering saw 42,000 people cheer on the US and African teams, composed of nationals from a variety of countries.
Of his many accomplishments, one of Gallagher's most defining moments was his coming out as the first openly gay civil servant. Gallagher said, "Certainly it was the gay liberation movement which got me out of the closet." This was an experience that heavily influenced his career
He continued, "[The movement] totally changed my life and ended my career at the same time." Gallagher said that 20 years later, he would be able to return to the State Department, once the policies against homosexuals were no longer a barrier.
He added, "Thomas Gallagher's presentation was fascinating. In some 40 minutes, he took the audience on a journey that spanned continents and time, and that has interwoven his life as a U.S. Foreign Service officer with world affairs. His commitment to public service and to socioeconomic justice speaks volumes and is inspiring."
After his presentation, Gallagher offered some advice to students aspiring to work overseas. He said, "The Peace Corps is a wonderful training ground for those who want to work overseas." By gaining experience in international work through the Peace Corps, Gallagher suggested that students are given the opportunities to improve a variety of skills.
"Volunteers who have completed a tour can demonstrate to potential employers that they have the ability to live abroad successfully. They also get a cross-cultural experience that will expand their view of life tremendously," said Gallagher. He also noted that international service offers participants the opportunity to learn another language, which becomes increasingly more difficult with age.
Gallagher added, "for those who want to pass the Foreign Service test and learn a lot about the world beyond New Jersey, I recommend a subscription to the Economist, an excellent weekly news magazine that also offers background articles that go deeper than the current headlines."
In attendance at Gallagher's presentation was Dr. Saliba Sarsar, Associate Vice President for Global Initiatives. Sarsar, who is also part of the Founder's Day Committee responsible for organizing Gallagher's presentation, said that an emphasis is placed on creating an environment that is both enjoyable and conducive in making a "meaningful learning environment."
Sarsar continued, "[Gallagher's] commitment to public service and to socioeconomic justice speaks volume and is inspiring."
PHOTOS TAKEN by Kiera Lanni