Shawn Gallagher '76


Former US Army and NASA attorney, Shawn Gallagher ’76, attributes life balance to his time at MMC.

Shawn Gallagher has traveled far and wide from his childhood home on a Hyde County, S.D. ranch. Mount Marty College was one of his first stops upon leaving home, but his Yankton years have guided him through challenges around the world.

Gallagher enjoyed life on the ranch in central South Dakota. The oldest of 10 children, he helped the family raise beef cattle. As a senior at Highmore, he knew he wanted to attend college. “I had an aunt who attended The Mount in the ‘40s for high school and nurses training and with my Catholic upbringing, MMC was an attractive option. Coming from a large family on a ranch, the Mount offered some financial aid and I decided to attend.”

That decision impacted all of his life. In February of 1975 he met Mary Patricia Ruhlman. The following summer she transferred to the University of Nebraska at Kearney. “However, her attempt to flee me did not work,” laughs Gallagher. “We continued dating and were married July 17, 1976, after I graduated.” The newlyweds continued their education; Mary Patricia received her masters in education and Shawn went to law school.

Now the Gallaghers have four children: Brian (who died at birth), Kathleen, Jacquelyn and Thomas. They’ve lived around the world, in Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Indiana, England, Kansas, Honduras, Virginia, Germany, Arizona and Washington D.C.

They currently reside in Yorktown, V.A., where Shawn recently retired as an attorney with NASA at Langley Research Center in Hampton, V.A. He had been with NASA for more than 20 years, as a business law attorney, business law team lead, deputy chief counsel and acting chief counsel.

“NASA Langley Research Center is NASA’s oldest operating center, celebrating its centennial in 2017. It pre-existed NASA by 41 years, existing as the operating center for the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics from 1917 through 1958, when NASA was created and Langley Research Center became part of NASA,” says Shawn.

Before joining NASA, Shawn served as an attorney with the U.S. Army for 15 years and 4 months.

He retired from NASA in September. As he and Mary Patricia move on to other rewarding activities, their time at Mount Marty remains close to their hearts.

“It is a never ending struggle to find a good balance to life, but I think The Mount and the people there prepared me to have a happy and fulfilling life of service to God, country and family.”