PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The University of Pittsburgh has a new chancellor.
Patrick Gallagher took over Friday as the 18th chancellor and CEO of the University of Pittsburgh, succeeding former chancellor Mark Nordenberg. Nordenberg announced his retirement in June of 2013, saying he would step down Aug. 1, 2014.
Gallagher, 50, returns to a campus that is quite different from the one he attended in the 1980s — more students, faculty and research than ever before.
He may be new to Pitt, but he’s no stranger to this area. His mother grew up in Carrick, where his maternal grandparents lived. He also attended Pitt to get his Ph. D. in physics. But he grew up in New Mexico, far from Pittsburgh.
“I spent my childhood coming here for summer vacations and summer breaks, seeing the sights as a young kid, coming back east to see the town,” he said. He recalls “mostly Pirates [games] because it was summer visits. And Kennywood, of course, and the museums, and I have very fond memories of visiting my grandparents here in Pittsburgh.”
Gallagher is not an academic but brings a fresh approach to Pitt as the second-ranking official in the commerce department.
“Clearly I have spent my career in an environment quite different from academia, and I think that’s both an opportunity and a challenge,” he said. “Hopefully, I will bring new skills and perspective that might be a little bit different, but by the same token, I’ve got a lot of new things to learn.”
And he wants to take Pitt to that next level.
“Pitt is poised to be one of the leading universities certainly in the country, and perhaps in the world.”
Students and staff say Gallagher is inheriting a university that they believe is in pretty good shape.
“I hope we can maintain being the great university that we are,” Pitt staff member Perrie Bell said.
Many give credit for Pitt’s resurgence to Gallagher’s predecessor, Mark Nordenberg.
“Just keep doing the good job that Nordenberg did before, keeping on that tradition of excellence,” alumnus Matt Williams said.
“As long as he keeps things running the way that they are, I feel like everything will be good for our school,” senior Sujay Turakhia said.
Gallagher knows comparisons are inevitable. It’s not going to be easy to replace Nordenberg. Under his leadership, student enrollment went up 20 percent, the endowment of the university went up 800 percent to $3 billion and the number of folks who want to come to Pitt grew from 8,000 to 30,000 this fall. But Gallagher says he’ll make his own mark.
“If I had to copy Mark Nordenberg, it would be a real problem, and I think the shoe size issue would be a big deal,” Gallagher said. “But I tend to look at this a little bit more like a relay race. My job now is to take that amazing place that Mark has brought the university and try to take it to the next level.”
One thing that will continue — a close relationship with Carnegie Mellon University. It turns out Gallagher and CMU’s new president, Subra Suresh, know each other from Washington.
“Dr. Suresh and I are past colleagues,” Gallagher said. “We worked together when we were both in government.”
So expect more of that collaboration.
“Pitt and CMU play a unique role in the Pittsburgh region by attracting top talent here, by producing students of great ability. That’s a real engine for growth in this region, and we’re really excited about it.”
But Gallagher also wants to get a handle on rising tuition.
“This has to be a major focus,” he said. “I think it’s actually a national debate.”
And look for Gallagher to help lead it.