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Life on the Edge: Students Meet with Timothy Gallagher ’90 FBI Special Agent

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Being ready for anything is literally in his job description.

“I wake up in the morning and I go for a run. That is the only thing that is ever certain about my day,” said Timothy Gallagher ’90, FBI special agent in charge of the Newark division at the first Criminal Justice Speaker Series of the year hosted by the Criminal Justice Student Association (CJSA).

“My phone could ring at any moment and the next thing I know, I am on a plane half way around the world,” Gallagher said of the unpredictable nature of his job. On Thursday, September 29, he took some time from his busy schedule to give a presentation in Pope Lecture Hall. He positioned his lecture as a series of anecdotes about his experiences with the FBI.

“I always tell people where I work, except when I am on a plane,” Gallagher started his presentation.

“Are you going to the conference?” A woman asked him once at an airport. He answered, yes, thinking that this woman would now know that he worked for the FBI. He was flying from a small town to another small town that was hosting a criminal justice conference.

“You are one of the criminals they brought in to tell us about their experiences,” she said to him matter-of-factly.

Actually, Gallagher has been the opposite for his more than two-decade career with the FBI. He helps fight “bad guys” such as violent street gangs, drug dealers and identity thieves. The FBI has three main priorities, Gallagher explained: counterterrorism, counterintelligence and cyber security.

Gallagher has assisted in bringing some of the world’s worst criminals to justice, and he has worked on high-profile cases such as the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 in Somerset County Pennsylvania on 9/11, a follow-up investigation of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the active shooter case at the Washington Navy Yard. Gallagher has dealt with issues ranging from fighting public corruption, kidnapping, active shooters, financial crimes, cyber hackers and international war crimes to name a few.

He shared a story of his involvement in identifying the BTK Serial Killer Dennis Radar. Gallagher said they raided his house to find Polaroids of his victims, among other things. In addition, when the story was on the news, Gallagher and his team were watching the story break on Radar’s own television.

At his job, Gallagher oversees approximately 800 employees in six other New Jersey sub offices. Being ready for anything is on the job description and Gallagher believes that Saint Peter’s University provides students with tools for them to be successful in high-stress, high-level jobs such as this one. According to Gallagher, the Jesuit ideals taught at Saint Peter’s prepares students for a job where they have to be tough, but also show empathy. In addition, the FBI needs quick thinkers and problem solvers, skills that Gallagher believes the University teaches. Saint Peter’s offers intercollegiate athletics and internships that bring career goals into focus and he encouraged students to get involved. Lastly, the diversity on campus is important because it teaches students how collaborate with others.

“At the FBI, you have to work with people who are not like you all the time,” said Gallagher. “Learning to work in a diverse environment is a valuable skill.”

Gallagher concluded his speech by saying, “The FBI gave me a wonderful opportunity to use my talent to help others.”

Students in attendance at the event were interested in Gallagher’s path after college. He explained that the FBI usually wants at least three years of experience in order to become a special agent, and the best thing someone can do is diversify their work experiences and work at least one internship

Hon. Kevin Callahan, J.D. ’69, lecturer in the criminal justice department, can answer questions about criminal justice internships; he can be reached at kcallahan1@saintpeters.edu. The FBI has an internship program with an application of October 14 for those who are interested. More information about that program can be found here.