Dorothy Gallagher’s career as a member of the Nevada System of Higher Education’s Board of Regents has been characterized by dedication and involvement in furthering the higher education ideals of the state.
She’s won numerous awards over the course of her distinguished tenure on the Board of Regents, which began when she was elected to the board in 1980.
Yet, in February, when Gallagher, a 1947 graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno, was awarded the prestigious Gold Medal award from the Mining and Metallurgical Society of America, she admitted she was a bit surprised.
“I’m very pleased that they considered giving me this medal,” Gallagher said on May 1 before attending the Mackay School of Earth Sciences and Engineering’s Executive Advisory Board meeting on campus. “There were many of us who worked on the Mackay School, in saving it, so I wasn’t alone. It was a beautiful ceremony and the award was simply stunning.”
There was little question that Gallagher was deserving of the award, which cited her unfailing support of the Mackay School, her organization of the Mackay Working Group of alumni and mining industry executives to preserve the school as a unit and to preserve its endowments, her drive behind the creation of Great Basin College in Elko, her key support of the Desert Research Institute, and her strong voice in the creation of vocational educational programs that resulted in the training of craftsmen for the mining industry.
James Taranik, director of the Mackay School of Earth Sciences & Engineering, and longtime friend of Gallagher’s, said Gallagher’s contribution to his school cannot be overestimated.
“Dorothy saved Mackay from extinction and enabled Nevada’s mining school to become stronger,” he said. “She arranged for the Desert Research Institute to develop the Great Basin Environmental Research Laboratory, she was instrumental in fostering the development of Great Basin College in Elko, and she was a stabilizing force on the Board of Regents for 26 years.
“Personally, I will be forever grateful for her mentoring me as a dean (of the Mackay School of Mines), a president (of the Desert Research Institute) and now as the first director of the Mackay School of Earth Sciences and Engineering.”
Gallagher, known for her warm personality, her thoughtful approach to higher education policy issues and her ability to build consensus among the state’s key stakeholders, said she has felt a strong allegiance to the Mackay School for many years.
“I knew about the Mackay School when I was a student here,” said Gallagher, who is from Elko. “And I’ve been very supportive of the school since I was elected to the Board of Regents in 1980.
“Mackay has always been an important part of the fabric of this state. As a land-grant college, we had to have a school of mines. It has been outstanding since then. Both Mackay and DRI have given us national and international recognition. It’s been a great pleasure work to with them.”
As an example of how strongly the name Mackay resonates throughout the country, Gallagher recalled the February dinner in Denver, Colo., when she received the Gold Medal, as well as a exquisitely hand-crafted jewelry box.
“It was a beautiful ceremony, a beautiful dinner, in Denver at the University Club,” she said. “The interesting thing, too, was that there was a window behind the podium in the room. And right behind the podium on that window was a University of Nevada seal.
“I was impressed by that … and it wasn’t because we were there that night. It’s there all the time. That shows you how well we are recognized.”
Gallagher said she never grows of tired of supporting the University. She added that being a graduate of the University is one of the most prized accomplishments she has had her in her remarkable life.
“I’m a Nevadan,” said Gallagher, who is a fourth-generation Nevadan. “When I was getting ready to go the University, my father said to me, ‘You are a Nevadan. You will go to the University of Nevada.’
“So here I am … still.”