After years of pioneering work in aerospace engineering, Alec Gallimore, the current Robert J. Vlasic dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan, will begin his new role as Duke’s next provost and chief academic officer on July 1.
As provost, Gallimore will be responsible for the academic mission of the University, overseeing Duke’s 10 schools and six institutes, as well as admissions, financial aid, libraries and other facets of academic and student life. He will succeed former provost Sally Kornbluth, who is now president at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Gallimore joined Michigan’s College of Engineering as a faculty member in 1992 and was appointed the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering in 2016. Under Gallimore’s leadership, Michigan Engineering unveiled an Office of Culture, Community and Equity and the Teaching Engineering Equity Center. Gallimore also started People-First Engineering, an initiative within the College of Engineering focused on fostering diversity within education, research and practice.
Gallimore was selected following a national search conducted by a committee of faculty, students, trustees and administrators. Amy Herring, Sara and Charles Ayres distinguished professor of statistical science, global health and biostatistics and bioinformatics, chaired the search committee.
Herring applauded Gallimore’s emphasis on community, his thoughtful approach to Duke’s vision and ability to respect situations before jumping in. She pointed to how he thinks of community as making a place where people want to thrive at the faculty, staff and student levels.
“We wanted somebody that had a lot of enthusiasm for the places we’re already going,” Herring said. “But we also wanted somebody who was creative and could help think of new ideas and new initiatives as we move into the future.”
Transitioning to Duke
Gallimore described Duke as “comprehensive,” with the “breadth and across-the-board excellence” that allows it to tackle society’s major problems. He pointed to his desire to explore interdisciplinary pursuits, existing leadership at Duke and the University’s ambition as the three of the reasons the role of provost appealed to him. He is also excited to be part of the Research Triangle Park, calling it an “amazing confluence of academics.”
As Duke’s next provost, Gallimore is excited to explore elements of scholarship in the academic enterprise beyond engineering.
“[The provost] is just a multifaceted, really complex leadership opportunity. And that appeals to me. That seems like the next stage, the next challenge of my career to sort of elevate to that level. And it's wonderful,” he said.
Gallimore is enthusiastic about working in a variety of fields and cooperating with students and faculty “across the entire range of scholarship.” His natural curiosity drew him to a job that would require him to lead not only the engineering aspect of Duke, but also literature, science, the arts, divinity and “everything in between.”
Jerome Lynch, current Vinik Dean of Engineering at the Pratt School of Engineering, was a former colleague of Gallimore’s at the University of Michigan. He highlighted Gallimore’s ability as a “natural bridge builder across disciplines.” Lynch also noted the “strategic partnerships” Gallimore formed between the College of Engineering and schools in the arts and sciences, medicine, information, education, environmental sciences and public policy.
“Underpinning the strategic vision is Gallimore’s belief that universities must remain focused on the advancement of the common good including making our academic communities inviting to all,” Lynch wrote in an email to The Chronicle.
For his first year, Gallimore believes that it is important to spend time with University leadership and understand Duke culture before leaping into decision-making. Prior to his meeting with the search committee, Gallimore mapped out the themes of Duke’s strategic vision to answer the question “What is it that I have experienced at Michigan that maps onto it?”
“I’m a big fan of gathering a lot of information, talking to a lot of people, working with scenarios, and experimentation,” he said. “It really has to do a lot with reading a lot, a lot of listening and a lot of visiting.”
Farewells and the future
Gallimore considers his departure from the University of Michigan to be a bittersweet one. As a part of Michigan’s faculty for 31 years, he is as excited to be a part of Duke as he is sad to be leaving Michigan.
“You know, it boils down to the people, the people, the people. My leadership team in particular,” Gallimore said. “I will miss the camaraderie that comes from working together, going after some major efforts.”
Gallimore looks forward to integrating his previous experience at Michigan with the academic and student life culture at Duke, and most importantly, “establishing a rapport with the community.”
While Gallimore is currently a Michigan fan, he looks forward to attending basketball games in Cameron Indoor Stadium and watching his love for sports can amplify at Duke.
Lynch mentioned that he learned a “tremendous” amount from Gallimore when both of them were at Michigan, which included an “academic leadership style that is about serving those you lead — in short, it is about tirelessly working to support students, faculty, and staff to do their very best work,” he wrote.
“Duke is so fortunate to have recruited this inspiring and accomplished academic leader to our community — it is not everyday you get to work with a ‘rocket scientist,’” Lynch wrote.
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Andrew Bae is a Trinity sophomore and an associate news editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.