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He hopes to make River Falls his home

Dean Van Galen

Dean Van Galen grew up in Waupun and says taking the chancellor's job at UW-River Falls will be practically "like a homecoming."

His wife Mary is from Fort Atkinson. The two met in a computer science class as undergraduates at UW-Whitewater in the early 1980s. They have one daughter, a high school senior.

Van Galen, 47, vice president for advancement at West Florida University in Pensacola, was officially picked last week by the Wisconsin Board of Regents as UW-RF's 18th chancellor.

He will earn $200,000 annually and assume his post June 1.

Early this week Van Galen was in River Falls, meeting with various people on and off campus, plus doing some house hunting.

Wednesday morning he was to address the UW-RF staff and faculty before the start of the second semester. After that he was flying back to Florida.

Van Galen said his roots will always be Midwestern. With a bachelor's chemistry degree from a UW-System school, he has a strong bond for a similar place like UW-RF.

"My heart is with an institution like UW-River Falls that has a student-learning focus and small class sizes," he said Monday.

Come June when he becomes chancellor, Van Galen said "Job No. 1" will be "to listen and learn about the traditions, culture and aspirations that make up UW-River Falls."

He added that his listening/learning curve will extend to the River Falls community.

In Florida, Van Galen said he's been an eager participant in community affairs, including Rotary and United Way.

If things work out as expected, Van Galen said he has every intention of settling down in River Falls for a long time.

Van Galen said his administrative style is "highly collaborative."

"I want to be certain that everyone possible has a voice in decisions," he said. "I'm also very committed to building bridges -- within the university, out to the community, the region and beyond. That's my perspective."

Van Galen describes himself as both an idealist and a pragmatist.

"The idealism side in me is that I believe deeply in the value of higher education," he said. "But I also tend to be someone who likes to make sure that plans are not just made but implemented."

Van Galen and his wife like traveling. He calls himself an enthusiastic though untalented golfer and an avid runner since his college student days.

Van Galen also has a penchant for collecting wise quotes, such as this remark on academics by the famous Irish poet/dramatist William Butler Yeats: "Education is not filling a pail, but lighting a fire."

Van Galen earned a doctorate in analytical chemistry from Kansas State University.

Since 2003 he has handled alumni relations, development, and marketing communications for the University of West Florida Foundation. Before that he was vice president for advancement at Truman State University in Missouri.

He first began teaching as a chemistry professor at Truman State where he won the Educator of the Year award in 1989.

The Wisconsin Board of Regents also named Thomas Harden as new chancellor at UW-Green Bay. His salary will be $216,000.

"We have high expectations for these new leaders," said UW-System President Kevin Reilly. "Serving as a chancellor of a UW institution is very demanding, requiring that these leaders work effectively with a wide range of students, alumni, faculty, staff, community leaders, donors, legislators and others.

"This is a critical time for our nation, our state and our universities. All UW campuses, including those in Green Bay and River Falls, will play a vital role in helping local communities face the challenges ahead."

Until June top administrative duties at UW-RF will remain with Interim Chancellor Connie Foster.

UW-River Falls News Services contributed to this story.