She reads Charles Darwin for fun and throws in a little Aristotle and Plato just to lighten things up. An insatiable reader, Patricia "Trish” Gallagher’s tastes run the gamut from heavy-hitting writers whose voices have thundered through the pages of literature to the lesser-read authors whose works can be found shelved in dusty library alcoves.
For the University College advisor, reading is a way of life. Her wide-ranging, incurable curiosity led her to complete both an undergraduate degree and, just last May, a master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Mountain State University. She has a passion for learning, which she translates into helping the students who come through University College.
“In the college, we are all advisors. We work with various populations, such as conditionally admitted students. We also have transient students—students who may be taking a semester at Marshall but are getting their degrees somewhere else—as well as high school students taking dual credit classes. We also advise College of Liberal Arts students who are undecided. In any given semester we can have 250 to 300 University College students in addition to a like number of COLA students, so we can have anywhere from 500 to 700 students a semester,” she explains. “We have to know a lot about all the colleges, such as the curriculum needed in each major. Our staff is here to help students get over any stumbling blocks and be successful,” she says.
Another important component of University College is the tutoring services that are offered free, paid for through their student fees, to all Marshall University students. Each semester 35 or more student tutors are hired to assist classmates who need additional help in their classes. High-demand subjects include math, chemistry, biological sciences and foreign languages, among others, Gallagher, coordinator of Tutoring Services, says.
“The tutoring program is very flexible, very geared to the needs of students,” she says. “Tutoring is available from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays. We keep lists of available courses and tutors, and we encourage students to just drop in. Additionally, students can request individual, scheduled tutoring appointments. We have more limited tutors and hours in the summer because not as many courses are offered, but we do offer this service year 'round.”
Gallagher has empathy for students because she has so recently been one herself. She has also been working with students for 26 years now, beginning as a temporary worker in the bursar’s office and then, in 1984, moving on to Career Services, where she remained until five years ago.
“Career Services is for both current students and graduates. We worked with students on all kinds of things, working on resumes and interviewing techniques, helping undergraduates find part-time jobs or internships, helping seniors and graduates prepare for the work force. I did everything and anything that needed to be done there, going from a Secretary I position when I started, to being the recruiting coordinator and handling all aspects involved in hosting five to six jobs fairs a year, for example.”
A native of Lincoln County, she’s lived in Cabell County for more than 26 years, where she and her husband, Thomas, indulge their mutual love of books and travel. “We’re reading nuts,” she says, laughing. “Generally, we’re open to all kinds of books. We started a tradition where every night we read aloud to each other; but, since he likes to listen and I like to read, I do most of the reading. I like philosophy, history, biographies ... especially offbeat books that give another view of history. Right now we’re reading about the Civil War and discovering some of the day-to-day things that went on rather than just learning about battles. We read Darwin because we found a book that had three of his most famous books, including On the Origin of Species, which was fascinating because of the detailed descriptions he gave of his travels. I got interested in philosophers partly because we studied the Greeks and Romans in my college classes and I’ve just continued to read their works.” Currently she’s hoping to find a copy of the just-published autobiography of Mark Twain, which he dictated more than a century ago.
The Gallaghers also love to travel and they’re eagerly looking forward to a return trip to Ireland, which is Thomas’ homeland. They went there 10 years ago to celebrate his mother’s 75th birthday. As a first-time visitor, Gallagher was enthralled with the sights that awaited her. “When the plane began its descent and flew in low under the clouds, the land looked just like the 40 shades of green I’ve always heard about! My husband says West Virginia reminds him a lot of Ireland because of the hills, and they have the picturesque winding back roads just like we have here.”
The fabled Irish pubs didn’t disappoint either, although a recent innovation they’ve made is all to the good—they’ve banned smoking, she says. “I loved the pubs and their friendly atmosphere, so this is really good news. The pubs were a community gathering place. Everyone went there; in fact, we had my mother-in-law’s party at a party room in the back of the local pub. There would be people of all ages in the pubs—families, babies in strollers and toddlers— and over everything was a thick sea of blue smoke.” The last trip was spent mostly with family, so the couple is looking forward to traveling around the country and doing more “touristy things” the next time around.
On the local level, the Gallaghers have always enjoyed traveling to visit family members, including five nieces and a nephew and now, to their delight, a grand-nephew. They’re big fans of the state parks and frequently explore them.
She’s an upbeat, positive person with a ready laugh who tries to see the best in both people and life. But this time of year can be melancholy for her. There is, of course, the marking each year of the anniversary of the Marshall plane crash that took 75 lives; but, on a more recent and personal level there is the anniversary of the death of her niece, Caitlin Cremeans, a Marshall freshman who was killed in an auto accident three years ago on her way to class. The family finds solace in the fact that Caitlin’s sister, Janette, graduated from Marshall that December and is now a teacher.
But for now Gallagher has the piles of books she’s collected—she loves the annual Huntington Museum of Art book sale and comes home laden with bags of them—and all the delights that await. “I’m just an addict when it comes to books. So many books, so little time,” she says mischievously.
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