Pitt taps U.S. Commerce official as next chancellor

by: Debra Erdley Updated:

PITTSBURGH - Patrick Gallagher, the director of the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology, will be the new chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh.

Trustees' chair Stephen R. Tritch introduced Gallagher to a standing ovation in a packed assembly room Saturday morning.

“I want to thank all of you for this tremendous vote of confidence and this tremendous honor and the privilege you've given me of serving this tremendous university,” Gallagher, 50, told the board.

The appointment comes after a nationwide search. Chancellor Mark Nordenberg, who has led the school since 1995, is set to retire in August.

Gallagher takes over the position Aug. 1.

Tritch said Gallagher emerged as top candidate early.

Gallagher serves as Acting Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce and Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Gallagher was appointed acting deputy secretary of the Department of Commerce by President Obama on June 1, 2013. In that capacity, he serves as the chief operating officer for the department, with overall responsibility for budget, planning, and operations.

As director of the national institute, position he has held since 2009, Gallagher provides direction for the agency, which promotes U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology.

“I think it's a fabulous choice, said Dr. Tom Smitherman, professor emeritus at Pitt's school of medicine.

Smitherman, who met with Gallagher briefly said the combination of his academic and management career in Washington made him a good fit.

“And so far as I know he has the same human qualities as Chancellor Nordenberg, which has made this such a marvelous place to work.”

In a statement, Gallagher said he was “deeply honored” to be chosen as the university's 18th chancellor.

“Public service has been an underlying value throughout my career, and I can think of no higher form of public service than leading this great university,” he said.

Gallagher earned his undergraduate degree in physics and philosophy from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., in 1985. He taught high school math and science before coming to Pitt in 1986 for his master's and doctoral degrees in physics in 1987 and 1991 respectively. Gallagher did postdoctoral research at Boston University before joining the institute.

He was Pitt's commencement speaker in 2013.

Nordenberg at the time called Gallagher one of the school's “truly distinguished and most nationally visible graduates.”

Gallagher's mother, Clare, grew up in Carrick and attended St. Basil's school.

This article was written by Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE.