Patrick Gallacher
Patrick Gallacher

Patrick Joseph Gallacher, professor emeritus of Medieval Language and Literature in the Department of  English at the University of New Mexico, died at the age of 80 on Feb, 7, surrounded by his family. A rosary service is Thursday, Feb. 12 at French’s Mortuary on University Blvd, at 5 p.m., with visitation to follow. The funeral service is on Friday, Feb. 13, at Holy Rosary, 5415 Fortuna Rd. NW. at 11 a.m., with reception to follow. 

Gallacher was born and raised in Detroit, Mich. As a young man in his teens, Gallacher attended seminary in St. Louis, Mo., where he acquired his love for the study of medieval theologians, before returning to Detroit to earn a bachelor's from the University of Detroit, majoring in the study of philosophy and English. 

In 1964, Gallacher received his Ph.D. in Medieval English Literature and Comparative Linguistics from the University of Illinois-Urbana. He was immediately offered a teaching position at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he remained until 1972 when  joined the UNM faculty as associate professor. 

Gallacher was author or editor of several books, as well as numerous reviews and path breaking articles. He was, for example,  one of the first Chaucerian scholars to combine medieval medicine and literature in such articles as “Chaucer and the Rhetoric of the Body,” “The Summoner’s Tale and Medieval Attitudes Toward Sickness,” and “Food, Laxatives, and Catharsis in Chaucer’s Nun’s Priest’s Tale.”

In addition to his co-editorship of the major anthology "Hermeneutics and Medieval Culture," he was also the author of "John Gower, Love, the Word, and Mercury: A Reading of John Gower’s Confessio Amantis," which set the standard for mythographic approaches to medieval English literature. Moreover, his edition of "The Cloud of Unknowing" —an anonymous 14th mystical text that presents contemplative meditation as a teachable, spiritual process for the ordinary person—formed the basis of discussions as far away as the Australian Broadcasting System.

Gallacher was both philosopher and poet—and teacher and mentor. His engagement with ideas and poetry went beyond the classroom and will remain forever in the minds and hearts of his students. As a result, in 2006 The Patrick J. Gallacher Scholarly Achievement Fund was established by UNM Department of English in his honor. 

In teaching undergraduates, he found introducing them to critical ideas and medieval poetry exhilarating, one of the most satisfying acts he could accomplish. His love of poetry was such that he would compose odes for his family and read them at birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, bat/bar mitzvahs and graduations. Likewise, he composed odes to honor his graduate students, who will long remember him as their teacher of Chaucer and Gower. His relationship with graduate students was that of mentor. Periodically he would hold individual sessions with those who might have particular interests in St. Augustine, St. Aquinas, or Meister Eckhart, or those who might need further instruction for their publications.

One student recounts his help in translating Marchettus of Padua’s treatise of the early 14th century on mensural music notation, which the student needed for an argument made in the dissertation: “During the course of our session, he began singing a Gregorian chant and revealed that he had been trained in chironomy—a method of singing chant by following hand movements that outline the melody— a method he had learned when he was a teenager. It was an electric moment. Talk about oral tradition at work," the student recalled.

A rosary service takes place Thursday, Feb. 12 at French’s Mortuary on University Blvd, at 5 p.m., with visitation to follow. The funeral service is on Friday, Feb. 13, at Holy Rosary, 5415 Fortuna Rd. NW. at 11 a.m., with reception to follow. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to The Patrick J. Gallacher Scholarly Achievement Fund, Department of English, UNM, MSC03 2170,  Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001.