"Curiosity is important!"
As you entered Dr. Jane Gallagher's office, you got a glimpse of just how productive and busy she was from the books stacked high in towers, and the papers cluttered on her desk. In Dr. Gallagher's 41 years at CCNY, she has had many jobs; the main one has always been teaching. She taught Biological Oceanography, along with the Human Biology non-science major course, and our Biological Foundations II, but Oceanography has always been her passion. For six years she served as Chair of the Biology department, for another 6 years as the college's Chair of Academic Standards, and also served as the Campus Ombudsman.
Back in 1978, Dr. Gallagher applied to teach at CCNY after receiving her Masters degree from Stanford University and her PhD from Rhode Island University. She described how students from Stanford University come from a very privileged background, and how the school pre-programs its students for success. When she was hired at CCNY, she was truly shocked by how little the students ha d been given in their lives. When speaking of the students she says, "They have grit! They have so much courage. The best thing about CCNY is its students and its mission." Dr. Gallagher proudly claims that she never left CCNY because she found purpose in helping the students, who work harder for their dreams.
Dr. Gallagher thinks students shouldn’t be worried if they are still undecided on their major. "It's not a bad thing to not know where you are going in life right away," she recounts how she changed her major five times before getting it right. "Try new things. Explore all of your options. Change your major as many times as you need to, because the world needs curious creative people. Curiosity is important and creative people see connections where other people may not."
Her proudest moment as a professor was when she was running a lab and all of her students were accepted into graduate school within two years or less. "They all got into advanced schools and became successful so soon. It made me so proud as their professor." With a shine in her eyes as she speaks of her students one can imagine the mutual admiration and respect shared in the nurturing environment led by Dr. Gallagher.
Conversely, Dr. Gallagher's greatest hardship at CCNY was when her husband, who is also an Oceanographer, had to go to sea for several months at a time and she had to manage a full teaching load along with being the only parent home for her only daughter, Melinda. She recalls being one of the few women in the science division at CCNY and how that caused a lack of understanding when one needed maternity leave. When Dr. Gallagher started working at CCNY, the college didn’t even offer maternity leave to expecting mothers.
As of January 2019, Dr. Jane Gallagher has retired from CCNY. She plans on traveling the world with her husband, starting with a cruise through the Indian Ocean. In her spare time, she also intends to volunteer at the NY Botanical Garden, as she loves gardening.
She offers a few words of wisdom to our students, "Talk to your professors more. Go to office hours if you're ever feeling really lost." Dr. Gallagher has stayed true to CCNY for decades as a wonderful professor, trusted colleague, beloved Ombudsman, and overall brilliant mind whose contributions will continue for years after she retires. As Dr. Gallagher makes her exit, she shares this one last thought, "I hope my younger colleagues find it as rewarding to work here as I did."