A tribute to James J. Gallagher, adopted by the Higher Education Consortium for Special Education (HECSE), February, 2014.
With the passing of James J. Gallagher on January 17, 2014, exceptional children, their parents, and teachers and professionals in their service have lost a voice of advocacy, reason and leadership. In losing Jim Gallagher, we have lost a visionary person who was relentless in his efforts on behalf of children and youth with disabilities. As the Higher Education Consortium for Special Education (HECSE) was convening for its 2014 leadership meeting in Washington, D.C., we learned of Jim's passing. Throughout our meeting we shared many wonderful memories of Jim and as an organization we want to express our heartfelt condolences to Jim’s family: his wife of 64 years, Rani; as well as his four children, Kevin, Sean, Shelagh, and Brian; and his grandchildren. We were able to share some of our thoughts and memories with Peggy Gallagher, Jim’s daughter-in-law and a distinguished member of our organization, before she departed for Jim’s memorial service in North Carolina.
It is no exaggeration to say that the lives of everyone at the meeting had been touched significantly by Jim's leadership, dedication, research and scholarship throughout a brilliant career. Though some present did not know Jim personally, they represented over 65 graduate leadership programs in special education in major universities from Vermont to California. These special education programs include senior faculty and their doctoral students receiving support through Federal legislation and funding streams that Jim inspired, advocated for, and helped to create during his long and productive career. At the meeting there were briefings by administration officials and Congressional staffers on legislation, research and training programs sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), and the Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER). Support for OSEP and NCSER can be traced to Jim Gallagher’s service in government as the first Associate Commissioner of the Bureau of Education for the Handicapped and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Planning, Research, and Evaluation for the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. His leadership and advocacy also included his many invited appearances before the U.S. Congress while serving as Director of the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute and Kenan Professor at the University of North Carolina.
It was Jim Gallagher who early on expressed the need for reform of the federal government. His concerns centered on educational bureaucracy and its related challenges in implementing interventions designed to create educational reform. Jim outlined a conceptual model for translating research to practice and was a pioneer in identifying the critical need and proactive role of effective child development services and early education programs.
As the first Commissioner of the Bureau of Education for the Handicapped, Jim helped to establish many of the special education processes that undergird our educational approaches today. Jim is credited with conceptualizing the idea of providing educational services for children with disabilities through the articulation of specific goals and assessments for children. His vision was realized through the Individualized Education Program (IEP) process, used in public schools throughout the United States to ensure appropriate education of children with special needs. It was Jim who approved the initial federal funding for Sesame Street, as well as the initial development of closed captioning technology which is now universally available.
Jim Gallagher also envisioned and outlined the manner in which education reform could be accomplished systematically by translating research findings into practice. In his 1968 article Organization and Special Education, Jim wrote "Experience has taught us that we need a much more complex model for transmission of knowledge if we are to have any hope of producing the comprehensive educational changes that this generation desires and needs ......the process of translating knowledge into action seems to require several rather distinct phases each of which requires time, organization and a constancy of purpose. ...... there appear to be five major stages in the knowledge to action cycle: research, development, demonstration, implementation and adoption."
In 1970, Jim Gallagher highlighted the need to elevate the status of education within the federal government in his prescient article Unfinished Educational Tasks: Thoughts on Leaving Government Service. He noted that “I cannot think of a single important reason why these three unlikely companions (health, education and welfare) share the same Department...... Unless we organize ourselves at the Federal level to keep our educational promises, to identify one clear spokesman for Federal education policy, to support and give leadership to special programs directly related to educational improvement (i.e., research, training, educational communication), then the Federal government may well be crying out for educational reform on the outside, when the needs for reform may be greatest on the inside of the Federal establishment." In articulating these changes in writing and directly to an administration that was not known for its tolerance for dissent, Jim demonstrated his remarkable courage and integrity. Over time, his advocacy was recognized through the establishment of a separate United States Department of Education. RI
Following his government service in 1967--‐1970, Jim became the Director of the Frank Porter Graham Center (FPG) at the University of North Carolina and through his leadership developed it into one of the Nation's leading research institutions. A key research program developed at FPG was the Abecedarian project, one of the Nation's first scientific studies of the potential benefits of early childhood education for children living in poverty. Begun in 1972, children from low--‐income families received full--‐time, high--‐ quality educational intervention in a childcare setting from infancy through age 5. Each child had an individualized prescription of educational activities. Activities focused on social, emotional, and cognitive areas of development, with a special emphasis on language. Progress was monitored over time with follow--‐up studies conducted at ages 12, 15, and 21 and findings demonstrated that important, long--‐lasting benefits were associated with the early childhood program. 20th Century.
Visionary leadership is a phrase that is over--‐ used, but not when describing Jim Gallagher. In the recent (January 28, 2014) State of the Union Address, President Obama noted: “Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child's life is high--‐quality early education...”. He went on to urge Congress to enact legislation to “make high--‐quality pre--‐K available to every four year--‐old.... As a parent as well as a President, I repeat that request tonight... ”. Jim Gallagher made that same plea before Congress on July 16, 1968, forty--‐six years ago. He urged Congress to adopt interventions for young children. He outlined the components of the first Handicapped Children's Early Education Assistance Act, beginning a national program of model projects that essentially changed the nature of special education for young children with disabilities.
Jim's textbook Educating Exceptional Children is a classic and we understand he had just completed its 14th edition, a remarkable and enviable achievement. Over his lifetime, Jim won many awards for his work, including: The Old North State Award; the Gold Medal Award for Life Achievement in Psychology in the Public Interest from the American Psychology Foundation; awards from the National Association for Gifted Children, the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children and the Council for Exceptional Children; and most recently in November, 2013, the Peabody Award from the University of North Carolina (UNC). Jim was tireless; among his many later career accomplishments he served as Director of UNC’s Bush Institute for Child and Family Policy, Senior Scientist Emeritus at the Frank Porter Graham Institute, and President of UNC’s Retired Faculty Association.
The Higher Education Consortium for Special Education recognizes Jim Gallagher’s multiple achievements and will honor his work through the presentation of our Lifetime Achievement Award during our July, 2014 meeting.
Mark Twain once wrote that the two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. Without a doubt, James J. Gallagher learned early on the why he was meant to do what he did, and our nation, its children and his family have benefited greatly. His legacy endures, a gift to all of us. Our 2014 meeting in Washington reflected Jim’s work in the spirit, energy and optimism of the young doctoral students assembled from universities all over this country.
Jim, you will be remembered for all you have done for those of us in the field, and for our next generation of scholars, teachers and leaders. Your courage, integrity and vision have and will continue to inspire us all.
Adopted by the Higher Education Consortium for Special Education (HECSE), February 2014
Notes from Katharine Shepherd, President, HECSE: The Higher Education Consortium for Special Education (HECSE) is a national organization representing almost 70 major university programs that prepare personnel for special education leadership roles. HECSE member institutions are committed to effective preparation at all levels and work together in a variety of ongoing advocacy, research, and service efforts on behalf of children with disabilities and the future teachers and leaders who will serve them. HECSE wishes to thank Philip J. Burke of the University of Maryland for authoring this tribute to James Gallagher.