Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher to step down in summer 2023


TPN File Photo

Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher at the February 2019 meeting of the Board of Trustees.

By Martha Layne and Jon Moss

Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher will step down from his position in summer 2023, he announced Thursday morning.

The University’s 18th chancellor will have served nine years in office and plans to remain at the University as a full-time faculty member in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Physics and Astronomy. The Board of Trustees is expected to kick off a national search process with the expectation of naming Gallagher’s successor prior to his departure.

Gallagher said in a Thursday message to the University community that serving as chancellor is “deeply fulfilling and rewarding,” yet also “very demanding, extraordinarily public-facing, and it can be all-consuming to do well, consistently, for a long period of time.”

He acknowledged the announcement could be “sudden and unexpected” to many, but said the decision was “based on purely personal considerations.”

“It is important that I exit this post before my energy, commitment, and attention to the work at hand wanes — a move that would be detrimental both to me and to the broader University,” Gallagher said. “I am very proud of where Pitt is today, and I think the University is well positioned for a new leader to take the helm and thrive.”

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher speaks with students at the event commemorating the first class of Panthers Forward — 150 seniors who will receive $5,000 in direct federal student loan relief. (Bader Abdulmajeed | Staff Photographer)

The last few years of Gallagher’s tenure as chancellor included many complex situations on campus. Graduate students narrowly voted against unionizing, while faculty members overwhelmingly backed unionization last fall. He has also steered the University through the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic. And a message from the chancellor last Friday claimed that Pitt’s state funding, which provides reduced tuition to in-state students, was at risk.

Gallagher, 59, joined Pitt in 2014, succeeding Mark Nordenberg as chancellor. He previously spent many years in public service, including as director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. He holds a bachelor’s degree in physics and philosophy from Benedictine College in Kansas and a Ph.D. in physics from Pitt.

Gallagher’s announcement follows a leadership transition at Penn State, also a Pennsylvania state-related university, which will have a new president beginning next month.

Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher walks down a first-floor hallway in the Cathedral of Learning in 2017. (TPN File Photo)

The chancellor launched many different initiatives during his tenure, such as the Pitt Success Pell Match program with Provost Ann Cudd, in which the University matched federal Pell grants.

Gallagher also created several long-term programs to build for Pitt’s future. He built Victory Heights with Athletic Director Heather Lyke, an ambitious program to rehabilitate and construct new sports facilities on upper campus. The University also gained City approval for a long-term institutional master plan to guide construction over the next few years. The first strategic Plan for Pitt was released in 2016, with a second version published last summer.

Robin Kear, the Senate Council president, said members of the body “deeply appreciate” what Gallagher has achieved for Pitt.

“We are particularly grateful for the chancellor’s commitment to shared governance and we have enjoyed working through issues of importance with him,” Kear said. “We are glad to hear he will be remaining with Pitt and wish him all the best in his new role. We anticipate a smooth transition to new leadership during the next academic year.”

Student Government Board President Harshitha Ramanan said the board is saddened that Gallagher will leave his role, and said they have “fond memories” of working with him on projects.

“In my time in SGB, working with the chancellor has been a really rewarding experience,” Ramanan said. “Although it was a surprise to hear that he plans on stepping down next summer, I am excited for all his future students because I am sure he is going to be a great professor and he definitely has a lot of wisdom to impart on students from all of his experience.”

Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher, the first guest on the show “Pitt Tonight,” arrives on the set in 2015. (TPN File Photo)

Mary Ellen Callahan, the vice chair of the Board of Trustees exercising the duties of the chair, said she is “grateful” for Gallagher’s leadership running the University.

“Pat has that rare set of skills that enable him to see around the corner while also engaging in the day-to-day activities of running a multibillion-dollar organization like the University of Pittsburgh,” Callahan said. “In this and in many other ways, his tenure as chancellor has been transformational to Pitt. He has been visionary with his plans, pragmatic with his approach, and engaging at every level.”

Louis Cestello, the vice chair of the Board of Trustees, said Gallagher’s time as chancellor was “simply remarkable.”

“I admire him greatly, and I try to emulate his principles of compassion and thoughtfulness in my daily life,” Cestello said. “He is a brilliant leader who cares about people and inspires everyone around him.”

Neighboring university administrators also offered Gallagher kind words, including Kathy Humphrey. She served as the chancellor’s chief of staff, as well as a member of his senior leadership team and the secretary to the Board of Trustees. Humphrey, now president of Carlow University, said Gallagher’s commitment to increasing Pitt’s accessibility and affordability has allowed “countless Pennsylvanians” to pursue higher education.

“Pat’s north star has always been that universities should not be ‘ivory towers,’ but places where students, scholars, business and community members can work together to leverage knowledge for society’s gain. It is a vision that he has realized at every turn,” Humphrey said. “His sincere determination to developing a culture of equity, diversity, and inclusion continues to transform Pitt. I cherish his leadership and friendship, and I am honored to have walked beside him.”

Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher throws the first pitch at the Pittsburgh Pirates “Pitt Night” in July 2016. (TPN File Photo)

In his community message, Gallagher described his next chapter at Pitt as “a dream come true.” 

“While change can be uncomfortable, we are facing it together — from a position of amazing strength,” Gallagher said. “Meanwhile, 2023 is still a way off, and we have plenty of things to do — together.”