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MU Recognizes Thomas Gallagher as Distinguished Alumni During Founder's Day

WEST LONG BRANCH, NJ– Monmouth University honored one of it’s most esteemed graduates, Thomas Gallagher, at the University’s Founder’s Day on

Photo credit: Chris Spiegel
Photo credit: Chris Spiegel

Wednesday October 8, 2014, during which the alumnus was recognized as this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award recipient.
He was presented with the Distinguished Alumni Award during the Founder’s Day Convocation Ceremony, lead by Monmouth University President Paul Brown. “Tom Gallagher’s service is distinguished in the areas of diplomacy, humanitarian aid, and social work. We are also pleased to recognize his courage as a champion of civil rights,” said Brown.
The honoree addressed the University in his acceptance speech delivered in Wilson Hall, which marked the inauguration of Founder’s Day. “I am very grateful to President Brown and the faculty and students of Monmouth University for the honor they have extended to me,” Gallagher stated.
Gallagher, a member of Monmouth’s class of 1962, is regarded as the first openly gay civil servant in any modern government and is known for his contributions to the field of social work, government, and the LGBTQ community, according to Monmouth’s Director of Public Relations, Petra Ludwig Shaw.
“Qualities of distinguished alumni include extraordinary achievements in their personal and professional endeavors and outstanding contributions to society,” stated Shaw. “Mr. Gallagher embodies all of these characteristics with his career as a diplomat, humanitarian aid worker, and civil rights [proponent].”
The University’s recognition of Gallagher has received positive responses from the Monmouth community. “I think Monmouth University honoring Mr. Gallagher this year shows a clear respect and dedication to human rights and endless opportunities for all,” stated Senior and President of All Lifestyles Included (ALI), Melissa Galvin. “Despite the potential discrimination the University may receive from a select few [due to his sexuality], honoring him pays respect to something bigger and more important: equality.”
According to Shaw, the campus community appoints nominees and the Board of Directors of the Alumni Association ultimately chooses the honoree.
A Philadelphia native, Gallagher transferred to the University as a junior and received a degree in Political Science with a minor in History. “This is really the first place I learned to question,” Gallagher stated as he reminisced on his time spent at Monmouth.
After graduating, Gallagher became the second Monmouth graduate to enter the Peace Corps, during which time he traveled to nations including Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia, and soon began a career in public service in the State Department, as stated in a press release written by Shaw. Gallagher also worked in the Office of International Health as well as USAID and the Office of East African Affairs, according to Shaw.
Photo credit: Chris Spiegel

“We are very proud of Mr. Gallagher’s accomplishments as a social worker as well as his work as a foreign service officer,” stated Robin Mama, Dean of Social Work. “His work has focused on areas that are near and dear to the social work profession – mental health and HIV/AIDS, and Mr. Gallagher’s work overseas is also an area that many social workers have been involved in.”
In 1973, Gallagher became the first civil servant in government to voluntarily identify as a gay man, as he noted in his speech.  After coming out, Gallagher embarked on a career aimed at aiding the LGBTQ community and became involved with groups such as the Gay Community Services Center in Los Angeles, CA, where he served as Director of Counseling, and the Gay Activist Alliance in Washington, DC. Additionally, Gallagher ran the largest public mental health clinic in the US, which was awarded for its work in AIDS services, according to Shaw.
“The fight is not over,” Gallagher stated in his speech.  “Being gay still merits the death penalty in a dozen or so countries around the world….We still have a long way to go.”
Gallagher currently resides in Tinton Falls, NJ with his life partner.
This year’s Founder’s Day celebration marked the 81st anniversary of the University. Founder’s Day, according to Shaw, is a campus-wide event that celebrates the University’s founding in 1933. The event is centered on the Convocation ceremony, which is attended by the Monmouth University community of students, faculty, alumni, and invited guests.
Junior and Vice President of ALI Melissa Rance seemed to echo the over arching opinion of Gallagher when she stated, “The Monmouth community should be proud to have such a distinguished and accomplished person such as Tom Gallagher be one of their own.”