OGDEN, Utah – Ron Galli, dean of Weber State University’s College of Science, has seen a lot of change during his 40 years on campus.
When he first arrived in September 1963, Kennedy was president, the Beatles hadn’t come to the U.S. yet, and Utahns drove American-made cars and watched black-and-white TV. Weber had only recently been renamed Weber State College after becoming a four-year school.
Back then, Galli says he saw an opportunity for growth and development, with a chance to help build a physics program at the institution.
Since teaching his first physics classes in the Fall of ’63, Galli has watched the college become a university, helped oversee the planning and building of the Lind Lecture Hall and Science Lab facilities, twice chaired the physics department that has grown from three full-time faculty members to 12, and led the College of Science as it moved from the quarters to the semester calendar.
Now change is afoot again as Galli plans to return to the classroom full-time after eight years as dean of the College of Science.
“I always wanted to leave while things were going well,” Galli said. “While it pains me to step aside, things are going well and I leave while I can still make contributions in the classroom. This will allow me more time with students and research.”
Teaching has always been Galli’s focus. He has taught classes every quarter/semester he’s been on campus, even while serving as department chair and dean. He says it’s still a thrill to see students “get caught up in the excitement of learning physics.”
Galli stresses the use of visual demonstrations in the classroom to bring the material to life. His best known demonstration may be his explanation for why cats always land on their feet.
For years, a cat’s seeming ability to defy the laws of physics fascinated Galli, but it was only in the past decade that he began to explore plausible reasons for the phenomenon.
His office contains various models of cats, which he invented, made from copper tubing, springs, and rubber bands, all designed to replicate the anatomy of a cat’s spine. These “cats,” when dropped from an inverted position, flip over and land on their “feet.”
The mechanical cat is just one of numerous props he brings to the classroom to help students grasp physics concepts.
The emphasis on teaching is something he’s tried to instill with his colleagues. As dean, he prides himself on having hired faculty with an interest in teaching and working with students.
He’s also been pleased with efforts by faculty to engage students in research opportunities that broaden their knowledge.
Expanding students’ research opportunities was a major factor in his efforts to acquire the bioremediation program for the college. When the federal government did away with the Bureau of Mines, Galli jumped at the opportunity to relocate its Salt Lake City research office to campus. As dean, he worked with the university to help the college attract the federal scientists and equipment to Ogden, in turn providing students a new resource for learning.
So after 40 years, Galli will move from administration back to the classroom as easily as a tumbling cat lands on its feet.