The Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) lost one of its dearest friends on November 29, 2009, when Bob M. Gallaway passed away after an extended illness. Gallaway, a longtime supporter of TTI and professor emeritus at Texas A&M University, was 93.
Although he eventually gained prominence as a respected mentor and beloved teacher of engineers for more than 60 years, Gallaway’s life could have been the topic of a Horatio Alger novel. His family moved to Texas in 1922, seeking the hunting and fishing prospects of the Rio Grande Valley. Gallaway worked hard at academics, graduating in 1938 as valedictorian, an honor with a $25 scholarship. In those days, that was enough to pay for an entire semester of college.
Gallaway hitchhiked his way across Texas, ending up at Texas A&M University. Ever industrious, Gallaway held numerous jobs as a student at Texas A&M, including babysitting a professor’s three children. Following graduation in 1942, he went to work in the petroleum industry but soon returned to Texas A&M for his master’s degree, where he stayed on to teach as an assistant professor.
For 40 years, Gallaway headed up the materials and construction division of Texas A&M’s Civil Engineering Department, becoming an expert recognized worldwide in asphalt paving materials technology. Gallaway also helped launch TTI, participating in the Institute’s first technical project. In fact, he was so important to the formative years of TTI that the Institute named the Gallaway Invitational Golf Tournament in his honor nearly 40 years ago.
“Gallaway led a group of innovators, teachers and researchers who, through a lifetime of dedicated service to the craft and the science of engineering, forever changed transportation and commerce,” states Dennis Christiansen, TTI director. “He was one of the early pioneers at TTI and is greatly missed, not only by his former colleagues and friends, but by the many former students he taught through the years.”
Mentoring countless young engineers at Texas A&M, he became a “godfather” to the Institute, shepherding many of his protégés into TTI‘s ranks. Always the teacher, he often challenged them to think beyond their assumptions.
“‘It depends’ is what he’d always tell me is the answer to any engineering question,” says Tom Freeman, TTI engineering research associate. “Our lunchtime sparring sessions are my favorite memories and probably the only thing I can ever remember losing and still liking it.”
Good-natured debating with colleagues was standard fare with Gallaway. Don Saylak, research engineer at TTI, recalls a debate between Gallaway and a colleague regarding the value of rigid (concrete) pavements versus flexible (asphalt) pavements. Gallaway was a proponent of the latter. When the colleague made the comment, “Gallaway, one of these days we will find that the roads in hell are paved with asphalt,” Gallaway was quick to respond: “I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s the only thing that can stand the heat!”
In addition to his considerable body of engineering work, Gallaway has left a living legacy. He and Susan, his wife of 69 years, were blessed with three children, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Gallaway’s motto was “Engage in a balanced life. Have fun, but study too. Life isn’t all work.” In Gallaway’s case, his life’s work involved generously mentoring others, having fun doing it, and striking that all-important balance between work and play.