Brother Ronald Gallagher, FSC, President of Saint Mary’s College 2006–2013, Department of English, Interim President of Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory in San Francisco

In the face of uncertainty, Brother Ronald Gallagher draws from advice he received almost two decades ago: stay deeply spiritual and keep your sense of humor.

How else could Brother Ron have served as vice chancellor of Bethlehem University in the deeply divided Middle East?  “There were constant threats at Bethlehem University. We Brothers, who lived on campus, were the only reason the place stayed open sometimes,” he says of his tenure from 1993–1997.

As vice chancellor—a European term for what we call president—Brother Ron was in charge of operations and fundraising at Bethlehem University. He had connections all over Europe, the United States and the Holy Land, and he represented the Brothers at the Vatican. A picture on the wall of his conference room at SMC shows Brother Ron side by side with a smiling Pope John Paul II. “We depended on the Church and the external world to keep us [Bethlehem University] going. And reporting to the Pope in person every year was an honor and a thrill.” Yet, the challenges of running the Catholic institution for the people of Palestine were formidable, and remain so today. Since its founding in 1973, the campus has been closed 12 times by Israeli military imposed orders. During the years that Brother Ron was there, he remembers the daily uncertainty. “We couldn’t predict if we’d be open at 8 o’clock in the morning,” he says. “Sometimes we’d be closed by noon.” 

Moraga is a world apart from Bethlehem, but the same principles applied to his job as the 28th president of Saint Mary’s College. “Knowing you’re at the mercy of uncertainty helps you deal with it as one of those things that’s unpredictable,” he says. “God gives you the strength and the ability to handle things.”

Brother Ron accomplished much in his seven years as president of Saint Mary’s. He cites the Kalmanovitz School of Education building, the Oliver Hall renovations, and the beginning of the $30 million Athletics corridor as three key achievements during challenging economic times.

Brother Ron’s interest in sports goes back to his youth. His father was a coach at a small Catholic school and the family's nine children competed in everything from baseball to surfing. But perhaps the most ‘dangerous’ sport Brother Ron encountered was running the milk bottle game at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. “You’d try to set them (the milk bottles) up and people would be throwing at you, so I got out of that right away.” He found grilling hamburgers on the Boardwalk was a much safer proposition.  

Through his many travels to 27 countries, Brother Ron, who received his master’s degree from San Francisco State University and his PhD from Washington University, both in comparative literature, has studied many languages, including Latin, French, German, Italian, and Arabic. But his passion is Irish literature and over the years he has taken several groups of students on tours during January Term of the historical and cultural sites of Ireland.

Saint Mary’s has been home to Brother Ron for many years. He appreciates the great education the school offers and loves interacting with students and the campus.

Brother Ron stepped down as president of Saint Mary’s in the spring of 2013, and today is on leave from the College while he serves as the president of Sacred Heart Catholic Preparatory School in San Francisco.