Salem State lost one of the founding fathers of its athletic program over the weekend when John Galaris, an All-American basketball player who later became the school’s first full-time athletic director, passed away at age 70.
Galaris was the first state college director of athletics in Massachusetts, a position he took in 1982 and held for more than 20 years. In addition to creating an endowment for athletics, upgrading facilities and expanding the number of varsity sports at Salem State from 15 to 22.
“I am greatly saddened by the passing of John Galaris,” Salem State Executive Vice President Stanley Cahill said in a University news release.
“He was always an enthusiastic supporter of both the athletic program and the university he loved so well. He never lost sight of the fact that athletes were also students and, to his credit, would remind them (and their coaches) of this whenever possible. He would also tell the athletes how important it was to graduate and take the lessons learned on the playing fields and courts, as well as in the classrooms, into their chosen careers. The university, and the many other organizations of which John was a member, have lost an invaluable resource and friend.”
Galaris later served as commissioner of the MASCAC, a post he held for seven years. He helped create many postseason tournaments for women’s sports in the league and oversaw 112 MASCAC titles won by various Salem State teams.
“John had a tremendous impact on Salem State athletics – first as a basketball player in the 60’s when he scored over 2,000 points while going against much taller opponents, and then again as the first director of athletics beginning in 1981,” current Salem State AD Tim Shead said. “During his tenure, John provided Salem State teams with the support to achieve greatness culminating in 10 Final Four appearances by men’s and women’s basketball, men’s ice hockey and men’s soccer, as well as a national championship in women’s basketball. His lasting legacy may very well be his decision to set aside extra fundraising funds over the years to endow each inter-collegiate team.”
Galaris was the school’s first-ever All-American in 1967 and graduated as Salem State’s all-time scoring leader with 2,455 points. After playing professionally in Greece for a year, he returned to Salem State ion 1969 and worked as assistant and director of the Campus Center. He retired in 2002 and the awards Salem State hands out to its top male and female scholar-athletes each year are named in his honor.
“John served as a mentor to so many professionals and students throughout his career and into his retirement about 11 years ago. He never really left our campus and could be found at the O’Keefe Sports Complex care where he provided valuable advice to the athletic staff and students nearly every day. John will be missed by many people,” Shea said.