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LCU's New Provost: Dr. Kent Gallaher

Tuesday, Jul 19th, 2022
Author : Keegan Stewart

Meet LCU's new Provost and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Kent Gallaher.

Episode length 31:17 minutes
00:00 31:17


Beta Transcript

Keegan Stewart: Hello and welcome. This is the LCU podcast, the podcast that will bring stories, insights and people from Lubbock Christian University. I'm your host, Keegan Stewart, and I'm happy to be with you for another episode. On today's episode, I have a conversation with LCU's new provost, Dr. Kent Gallaher. Dr. Gallaher has a decorated career in christian higher education, or his work both as an administrator and an accomplished fundraiser.
Since 2020, he has served as associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Lipscomb. He and his wife, Marcia, just moved to Lubbock. He has two grown sons and one granddaughter that he's very proud of. I hope that this conversation helps you get to know our provost a little bit better. Here is the conversation with Dr. Kent Gallaher.
Dr. Gallaher, thanks for your thanks for joining me today.
Dr. Kent Gallaher: Thank you for having me.
Keegan Stewart: Your first day at LCU was July 1st. So that that makes it exactly one weekend. How was your first week at LCU?
Dr. Kent Gallaher: My first week has been has been filled with learning. I think I'm trying to learn my new school and all of the folks that that are going to be working with me. All of our deans and director of the library and director of the the Global Learning Community and our director of our Center for for teaching, learning and scholarship and just trying to get a handle on the scope of the of the job.
I've also had some really generous friends who are provosts at other universities that I've been able to visit with and for them to to help me get a handle on what it means to be a provost. I've been in a dean's office of being a department head of run programs and alumni organization. It's my first time in the provost seat and the provost at Mary Hardin Baylor, a guy named Vassar.
He and I had a fantastic conversation this week where he said, you know, the CFO is responsible for the money. The the vice president for student life is responsible for the students. And you are responsible for our faculty. And and that that kind of help put things in perspective. I think if I asked my kids what would they want to be in charge of, they would say probably the money and and maybe not maybe the the faculty or the staff or the or the students. So.
Keegan Stewart: When you were in college, if someone would have said, hey, Kent many years from now you are going to be a provost, you would have said what to them.
Dr. Kent Gallaher: I would have thought they would have told me they were crazy. I think just a few years ago I would have probably said they were crazy. I think about my my journey through life and most of the people that knew me, that have known me, particularly in my younger years, would have thought this was this was an impossibility.
So but, you know, the Lord, you know, man makes plans and God laughs, I believe, is the is the parable. And and so the Lord puts you where you are supposed to be, when you're supposed to be there at just the right time for just the right thing. And so we really believe my wife and I really believe that that we have been called to the South Plains for a specific reason, that we don't know what it is yet, but we believe that God will make it plain and make it clear and one thing about my my professional life, my personal life as well is that I try to be open God's leading in and
try to be an instrument of his and and and so far, the amazing thing about being open to God is when you when you give him everything in your life, you know, hold anything back, he gives you the kind of life that other people look at and go, Wow, I wish I had that life. And so he takes care of you in every way.
So we we believe we're here for a reason, and and we're trying to honor God, and we think it's going to be really great.
Keegan Stewart: I loved what you said when you were visiting LCU and, you know, you were interested in the provost position you're visiting and you did a presentation to faculty and staff. One of the things you said at the end is, hey, you know, I'm really comfortable where I'm at right now. I know everyone, everyone knows me. It's a lot of fun and a great community, but I don't know if I'm supposed to coast into this next chapter of my career.
Which would which would the next one would be retirement after this current chapter. I love what you said. Could you could you elaborate a little bit more on that?
Dr. Kent Gallaher: Well, yes, I, I my journey professionally I began at Lipscomb University in 2000 or in 1996, actually, and spent eight years at Lipscomb. And then Abilene Christian University kind of recruited me three different times. And I finally said yes to going out there. And so we moved there in 2004. And my my role there was to really try to revitalize and maybe even in a way, rescue an environmental sciences program that it kind of gone sideways.
And so we did that. We felt really good about it. The program was on a very different trajectory. We didn't think we would ever leave. ACU And then Lipscomb called again and said, Hey, we want to start this Institute for Sustainable Practice and we think you're exactly the right person. And so I got recruited pretty heavily to go back to Nashville.
And so then for 14 years I was at Nashville altogether 22 years teaching at Lipscomb University. I taught a generation of kids either in the sustainability area, environmental science area or premed area. And so when you've been at a place for that long and you've, you know, my the first my first group of students that ever taught or in their late forties now they're established, their kids are going to college.
And so you have all these relationships that are really rich and that are old and that the university loves to leverage to help the university grow in a very real sense. I was a I was a made man in Nashville. I was I was in every way, completely and totally part of the culture there, the community there. I was used to do everything from raise money to recruit students, to build programs.
And so when you're you're in that position, it can become very comfortable. And you have you are afforded a certain I don't know if I would say a level of respect, but you have a certain position in that in that community that is valued and I guess respected. And it would have been really easy to stay there for the next 8 to 10 years of my career, however long that I'm going to work and enjoy the position that I had, I had achieved.
But that would be coasting. And I literally I remember using that term. It would be so easy for me to just coast the rest of my way out. I don't think God ever calls any of us to ever coast at any time. And when do you get to retire from being Christian? Hmm. And so in my professional life, I don't think that that would have been healthy for my relationship with God to just sort of sit and certainly use relationships and, and enjoy those relationships that I had there.
But in a very real sense, I wouldn't have been making like progress. And so here being feeling like being called here and just a whole series of events in my professional and personal life that led me to this moment to be at Lubbock Christian University. You can look back on that and go, You know, God was preparing me for this particular thing at LCU or God was getting me ready for this move to LCU and and for me to have said no to that even, you know, I don't want to really get into the negotiate plans of even of coming here.
But we we were getting close to the end and I was really having second thoughts about whether or not I should come and just the conviction, as you sit and reflect, you know, as I would say, four or five days before I was actually offered the job, I was I was really, really thinking about not coming, but being convicted that this is the place that we're supposed to be at this moment in our in our career.
And it's hard. We didn't just leave professional life. I was an elder at a church for a number of years. And our family, both of my wife and I, our families are there. I mean, we are literally out here a thousand miles from everybody that we love and and doing it because we believe that this is where God wants us to be at this period in our lives.
Keegan Stewart: What is it about LCU that caught your eye or that that draws you to this place that you're intrigued about?
Dr. Kent Gallaher: Yeah, I think that the number one thing about LCU that I that I am already loving is that LCU isn't confused about who they are, what they're trying to do. I think universities often Christian universities, faith based universities, they get to a point in the trajectory of their life as an institution where they begin to make decisions about what it is that they really want to try and accomplish as an institution.
And so universities sometimes will start to make choices that begin to distance themselves in sometimes imperceptible ways, sometimes very intentional ways from the the purpose of their founding. There's a really, really frantictastic university in the Carolinas called Elon University. It started as a restoration movement, Christian connection. It was a the founder of the university was was really heavily influenced in the in the mid 1800s by Barton W Stone somebody who's who's part of our tradition in the Churches of Christ Restoration.
They started a college that later became affiliated more with the United Church of Christ. But as the university began to try and compete with the likes of Davidson and Duke and and in universities like of that of that ilk, Furman, they began to make decisions to curry favor with the world. And as they began to curry favor with the world, they slowly began to lose their connection with their faith until they very intentionally severed their relationship with the United Church of Christ in the 1980s.
Now that universities, you know, Elon is is synonymous with quality and distinction and it's a university of choice for for for children of families in the top quintile of earners in the Western and the Eastern Seaboard. And if you look at their U.S. News and World Report rankings are like number one in the nation for undergraduate teaching in the whole country.
They're in the top ten of every category that U.S. News and World Report ranked. They've they've done it but they did it at a cost. Right. They they they did it at the cost of walking away from their commitment to faith and the reason that they were founded in the first place. So all that to say, the thing that really attracts me to LCU is the fact that LCU is isn't confused about who we are and what we're trying to do here.
This is God's work at LCU. This is the school is strongly student centric, but even more so strongly missional. The school understands its mission of creating a worldview in our students that is based on the person of Jesus Christ, a worldview that gives meaning and purpose to every aspect of life, so that when that student graduates from this university, they go on to a fantastic career but an even better life.
And all of us involved in that work here, we can take a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that our fingerprints are on those lives and God used us to influence those lives. And our graduates will not just have great careers, but they'll be great servants in their community and that they'll be great servants in their churches and they'll be different mommies and daddies and and better spouses to one another because of the influence that God had in their life during this period of becoming that you enter into when you start college.
Keegan Stewart: In hopes to help faculty and students get to know you better tell them a little bit about yourself. What do you what do you do for fun? What are some of your hobbies? What do you like to do when you're not working?
Dr. Kent Gallaher: Well, I. I miss one of the things I'm really missing is my my farm. I am a hillbilly from Tennessee. My family has operated the same farm for 190 years. And ordinarily my weekends would be spent with my brother in law and my dad and my sons working on our farm. So I miss that. That's a bit that has been a big part of my life, but I'm a thousand miles away from that farm now.
So that's that's a big part of who I am. I'm very tightly bound to that place. There are few people that that actually not only know who their fifth great grandfather is, but can actually go to that person's grave. So I am a seventh generation farmer in Tennessee. So that's a big part of my identity. Another big thing that I enjoy that I think really helps me a lot is racquetball.
I'm a racquetball enthusiast. I've been playing since 1978, which is probably before you were born, I'm guessing. Yes, sir. So that is a big part of my life.
Keegan Stewart: I believe I saw you in there was President McDowell the other day. Was that was that the first game on that you have played since you moved here?
Dr. Kent Gallaher: We we played actually on my first day on the job that that was the first game that we played here. Of course, he and I, we played together for a long time when he was at Lipscomb. Also. You know, he's kind of slow and clumsy, though, so. Well, let's just not, let's not get into that part of it.
But I do I do enjoy racquetball. The other thing that's a big part of who I am is I'm a nature enthusiast and I love hiking and camping. And I for much of my career, I have taken students with me to different places around the country. And whether it's the Everglades or the Olympic Peninsula or frankly, when I was in Nashville, we would come about every third year to the Guadalupe Mountains and do the Trans-Pecos region all the way down to Big Ben and studied as air lands, ecology.
So a lot of camping, a lot of hiking. My wife has never been with me on any of those trips. And so now that we're in this region, I've told her, you know, we're we're going to we're going to go hike the south rim of the Chico's and we're going to go to McKittrick Canyon, and we're going to go and look at some of the of God's beauty that can be found out here in these arid lands.
Keegan Stewart: I read about your your background in your area of expertize, in higher education, and I read environmental sciences. I read, you know, science and then sustainability. How did you find yourself on those paths?
Dr. Kent Gallaher: Yeah, so I was originally recruited to Lipscomb in 1996 to actually create an environmental science program. My academic training, my bachelor's degrees in chemistry, my master's degree is is in environmental science, and then my Ph.D. is in plant physiology and biochemistry. So I'm kind of on the chemistry side, my master's degree, I studied how pollutants are broken down and transported in soil and how they can contaminate groundwater and that kind of thing.
So I really became in graduate school very, very interested in the environmental movement. The problem with the environmental movement, though, was that it really alienated the business community in a big way, painted the business community as being the enemy, really. And so when the sustainability movement began to to start and as it has matured, it has embraced business in a way that the environmental science movement did not.
The environmental movement really did not. So sustainability is is really about finding the the nexus of where you are doing something good for the planet and you're doing something good for people and you're doing something good for profit. So planet people profit. And where you're doing something good for those three areas where those three things kind of come together.
If you imagine a Venn diagram where you have these three intersecting circles, where those three things come together, that sustainability. So, you know, we worked on a variety of different sustainability. I started the Sustainability Institute at Lipscomb and one of the first things we did there was we established the very first Green MBA program in the state of Tennessee.
And so those graduates then go and they work for all kinds of companies, UPS, Tractor Supply, just a bunch of companies helping those companies figure out ways to green up their business practices and and really embrace the sustainability ethic. And it's it can be really little things, you know, if you're U.P.S. and you have the ability to preplan a delivery route based on a GPS, you put a GPS and UPS truck and you can preplan a delivery route so that you only take right turns.
Now, how would that make any difference if you're only taking right turns? Well, that means that every time you come to a stoplight, you don't have to stop there very long. You can just take a right turn and the amount of fuel savings from that very small thing for that company ended up being in the billions of dollars.
Keegan Stewart: Wow.
Dr. Kent Gallaher: So they're saving money. The less fuel you burn, the less CO2 goes in the atmosphere. And you've got a thriving company providing jobs for lots and lots of people. So that's that's an example of where sustainability is, is is really, for me, much more much more preferable than the environmental science movement. The environmental science movement would just say fossil fuels are bad, don't burn fossil fuels.
No, I think that that's not that's not a realistic position to take. And now that I'm in Texas, I'm never going to complain about how expensive, you know, oil is, because I'm sure we've got some folks in our who support our university that rely on that. So but that's that's sort of the sustainability thing there.
Keegan Stewart: When you were a faculty member in teaching, you know, throughout your career, what was your favorite class that you taught?
Dr. Kent Gallaher: Boy, that is so hard. That's like asking who's your favorite child, right? I, I have because my academic training is so broad. I have taught literally everything from environmental ethics, environmental law to general chemistry to to molecular biology. Because I am a biochemist, probably the thing that I enjoyed the very most would have been an introductory molecular biology course that I taught for pre-med students.
It was sort of the first gatekeeper course for all of our pre-med at Lipscomb. I would teach ordinarily somewhere around, oh, 200 kids a year in that class, and all of them were aspiring doctors and dentists and pharmacists and physical therapists and to to try and help those young students understand what it's going to take to be successful and then to inspire them to embrace science as a profession.
That was a hold that was for me was a whole, whole, whole lot of fun. So that would probably be the top my favorite course that I've taught recently. But a close second would be one in natural medicine. I really have taught that for many years as well. And so one of my things that was a favorite thing for me to do for many years was because that was one of my areas of research was natural medicine.
So to go into a GNC and talk to the salesperson and ask them, Hey, tell me, tell me, is this work? And, and, and then listen to them give you the sales pitch for chromium, pickling eight or whatever, and then sit there and just kind of laugh at me inside. But that's another one that was a favorite to teach.
Keegan Stewart: When you were associate dean, were you still teaching a class here and there?
Dr. Kent Gallaher: I taught very little when I was associate dean. Most of my portfolios in Associate Dean was in the area of advancement, fundraising and new program development program reviews. So I was responsible for the our dashboards on profitability of all of our programs and trying to to get a handle on which areas were growing, which areas needed more support.
And then interacting with alumni and external constituencies to raise money. So raised a lot of money for I say for a christian university, $15 Million is a lot of money. So I raised a good bit of money for for my school.
Keegan Stewart: You've you know, you've we've talked about you being at Lipscomb and ACU you've had, you have a long career in christian higher education. But then you look at where you went to school. You did you U.T. Knoxville in the University of Tennessee. And you've seen, you know, the state education. You've seen both worlds. What what does christian higher education mean to you?
What's the value of it? What would you say to a parent who's asking, you know, what? How is this different?
Dr. Kent Gallaher: Yeah, I think that this is a conversation that we often have with families, and it's really interesting. The parents of my you know, my parents generation, people who are now in their eighties and nineties, they they really believed in sacrificing for their children to have a Christian education. They believed in the value of of the sort of character formation that goes on in what we do in Christian higher ed as the years have gone by.
And and folks, it just seems that folks have become less it's not a immediate like my kid has to go to Christian education more there's a whole lot more students. Kids are given a lot more autonomy is what I'm trying to say in my generation. You know, my when I was getting ready to go to college, my dad was like, okay, so you can go to Lipscomb, you can go to Freed, you can go to Harding, you can go.
You heard there was a list of schools I could go to. And by the way, my dad was a professor at the University of Florida. I mean, he was had a brilliant career in secular education as a scientist, but he was these were the schools I was allowed to go to. Now these parents are like, hey, my kid can go wherever they want, right?
It's just he can choose. She can choose. So we end up having this conversation about what we do in Christian education and why it's important. And, you know, Christian education, you kind of think of it in in three ways. And what's the value in Christian education? Well, most basic, number one, we're going to provide a high quality education that kids are going to be able to get a job and have a career and be able to live in contemporary America and pay for their life.
And we provide the education that is that gets them there. The second thing that we do that you do not you do not find in secular education is we are going to inform their faith a big part of of Christian higher education. Christian education isn't just loving kids, which we do. It's informing their faith. It's building their faith.
It's helping them to own their own faith. We get kids who are 17, 18 years old. They think they know who they are and they think they know what they believe. But more often than not, they don't know who they are and they don't have a faith that really belongs to them yet. And so we're in the business of helping them mature in that knowing, owning, in forming their faith.
And then the third thing that we do in Christian education that stands in in opposition, I think, to secular education is we are equipping them to interact with the dominant culture. That's that worldview part. And a secular institution, a secular university is going to create a worldview, but it won't be a worldview that is built and based on the person of Jesus Christ.
It will not be a biblically centered worldview. And so, yes, we provide a great education. We inform our students faith. But the most important thing about Christian higher education is we create a worldview. We help those students have a worldview that will allow them to interact with the dominant culture in a way that is God honoring, and that even if you go to a great secular school that will help you build character, they won't help you build a worldview that will allow you to interact with the dominant culture in a way that honors God.
Keegan Stewart: That is well. Said, I know you've only been in Texas, moved here officially for a week, but. Well, early on here, Dr. Dean, what's what's one of the biggest differences between Tennessee and Texas?
Dr. Kent Gallaher: The number of syllables in words is different. No, I'm trying to do that in Tennessee. We just run everything together. You know, I've I've I've got a one of our faculty members, the chair of our Department of of Communication and Fine Arts, Laurie Doyle. Mm. I have to be really careful about saying her name because in Tennessee we just call her Lloyd Laurie Dole.
Dole. You know, we, we just run everything together in Tennessee and out here you actually pronounce syllables. When I was a student at ACU, I discovered that the letter A can actually have two syllables. Right. Cheerleaders would say, I see you, you know, as just draw it out. How many syllables can we put in the letter? Right. No, that's that's that's it's that's a silly thing to, to, to to sort of say what I'm discovering about Lubbock.
And Lubbock is very different from from Abilene. I think Abilene has much more still has much more of a southern sensibility about it up here on the Panhandle. It feels much more western. It feels like a more Western sensibility. I think politics are a little different. I don't want to stray into politics, but there is more of a, um, I guess I would say kind of a libertarian vibe going on in this part of the world.
I mean, it just, it feels a little it feels a little different. There's a bootstrap kind of mentality here also that's that's palpable. I mean, you can you can tell that people are used to sort of doing it, you know, and not relying on anybody else to help them do it. So I'm trying to integrate. I'm married to a West Texan, so my wife has family scattered out everywhere from Midland, Odessa, Andrews, the Metroplex.
I mean, we've I think she has a great nephew that lives here in Lubbock. We haven't seen him yet. But but so I'm married to a Texan. I'm trying to adapt to being in Texas, just like my wife had to adapt to being surrounded by trees when we were living back east, you know, she felt like a caged animal because she couldn't see where she was going.
You know, out here, you can kind of look off and go, I want to go over there and and you can kind of make your way because there's nothing in the way.
Keegan Stewart: So. Well, have you found any good food yet?
Dr. Kent Gallaher: You know, um, I am a big old boy, so I. The somebody was asking me that the other day about Mexican food. And we've tried a lot of Mexican places and and we we love I love to eat. And somebody said, we have found any that you really like. And I said, well, you know, Mexican food is kind of like cake.
You know, even bad Mexican food is better than no Mexican food, right? Bad cake is better than no cake. So we are we are in. And of course, because we were in Abilene for several years, I fell in love with bluebell ice cream and whataburger. And when I when we moved back to Tennessee there there was no Whataburger, but we did have BlueBell.
So we are we are loving being back in the Land of Whataburger and and Taco Villa and all of the fast food stuff that we used to love when we were when we were here 15 years ago.
Keegan Stewart: You bet. This is this is my last one. And I really do appreciate the time. But just one one final message to this community. Dr. Gallagher, what are what are you most excited about? As as we are a month and a half away from from beginning your first semester as Provost and Chief Academic Officer.
Dr. Kent Gallaher: Yeah, I'm a most excited about the potential that this university has. I think sometimes when when we're smaller and we've struggled, we can begin to think of ourselves as less than. And we see all of the things that we can't do. Sometimes we focus on that. What I see when I look at this university is a tremendous amount of potential, really, really talented people who have who have succeeded against the odds in some cases, and a university that is on a launching pad.
And and some of it is going to require us to just maybe think of ourselves differently. But I think there's a tremendous opportunity for us to grow, not just for the sake of growing, but so that we could have a better and greater impact. I'm going to say it over and over and over again. I'm sure that that we want to embrace innovation.
We want to embrace growth. I believe that that is part and parcel of what a pioneer spirit would look like. You have to innovate. You know, the tornado comes through in tears up your ranch and you've got to figure out how to put it back again. But not not be satisfied with it. The way it was. Right. You're continually trying to grow.
So I think we're a university on a launching pad and and I'm excited about the growth that we will see. But more importantly, the impact in the lives of people that that growth will enable us to have. It's really not about me. It's not about you. It's not about any one of us. It's not about anybody who works here.
It's about the impact that we can have for the kingdom in the lives of young people at a really, really critical time in their personal development.
Keegan Stewart: Dr. G, thanks so much for taking the time to have this conversation today. We are glad that you're here. Welcome to LCU.
Dr. Kent Gallaher: I'm happy to be here.
Keegan Stewart: Thank you so much for listening to the LCU podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, send it to someone you know. Please follow and subscribe. Leave us a rating and review. I hope that you have a great day. God bless.
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