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Nesta Gallas was a marvelous role model for me both within ASPA and with John Jay College where I first met her in the mid 1970s, I think. When I first joined ASPA by working on the ASPA Conference held at Syracuse University (Maxwell School) in 1974 think she was President Elect or Vice resident. Anyway, she was down to earth, knew what she was talking about (high praise from a practitioner) and exemplified a dynamic, responsible and responsive leader in both criminal justice and public administration. She certainly was a woman ahead of her time and leading the way for others to follow! Glad to have known her! She certainly will be missed.
Past ASPA National Council Member; Director of Albany County Probation (ret)
Nesta Gallas was an original. She was a strong, elegant, gracious leader. She remains an outstanding role model for me and for many others. Nesta left a remarkable legacy for ASPA and for women in public administration. We are all much richer for having known and worked with her.
Mary R. Hamilton, Ph.D., CAE
Fellow, National Academy of Public Administration
Senior Executive in Residence
School of Public Administration
University of Nebraska Omaha
Nesta Gallas’s official family obituary accurately captures two vital qualities of her successfully distinctive leadership in the field of public administration: first, for 67 years, she and her husband, Ed, were inseparable personally and professionally as a team, and, second, with deliberate discipline and wonderful joy together, they sought to advance ideals and practices of constitutionally democratic public administration, consistent with advancing human civilization, locally to globally.
Among other challenging goals, the Gender Revolution in which Nesta and Ed were life-long leaders has successfully altered and elevated values of human dignity and varied responsible means to their accomplishment. I was blessed, along with them, through both professional practice and teaching of public law and administration, to share in the challenging racial, gender, and life-style Civil Rights movements from the 1940s forward that have positively redefined not only American society but civilization almost globally. Nesta was a notable pioneer throughout the years, a special exemplar, during often-tough times. She was fired as Honolulu’s Personnel Director for standing up against corruption and for supporting professional expertise under responsible public law—uplifting public-service standards nationally. Challenged in mid-life with breast cancer—and extremely radical mastectomy and rough radiation treatments of that time—I found Nesta and Ed at the NYC hospital thoughtfully discussing continuing professional responsibilities—a metaphor of their shared love and leadership in advancing women’s roles and accomplishments, often against what others would have interpreted as impossible odds.
Dear Nesta bequeathed to ASPA enduring blessings. As the Society’s first female national president, she not only opened that position to other women, but she set a broader example of responsible racial, ethnic, and life-styles inclusiveness that spread within ASPA and among other organizations in which she and Ed actively joined forces, including the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA), the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA), the International Public Management Association—Human Resources (IPMA-HR), the International Institute of Administrative Sciences (IIAS), the World Bank, and the United Nations.
Understandably, Nesta and Ed embraced old age together with continued “passion for examining and understanding” human life experience. Following Ed’s death in 2010, Nesta knowingly embraced life’s time to move on. She died on 11 August 2012, within two weeks of her 95th birthday. Along with grieving for the loss of ASPA’s decades-long exemplar, enduring celebration of her splendid life is now in order via a permanent Nesta M. Gallas Award.
Past President & Past PAR Editor in Chief
I was overwhelmed when I heard about Nesta’s death. I am a member of the generation who knew her. In addition to being the first woman to serve as ASPA president, she was also the first female president of the New York City chapter (1971-1973). From an Internet search, I determined that Nesta was fired from her job as personnel director in Hawaii in 1957 while taking on an advocate role on behalf of an employee. There is a book about this event on amazon.com, which is no longer available.
I would describe Nesta as: a fire brand, feisty, elegant, passionate about the profession, compassionate, visionary, feminist, confident, unselfish, well-spoken, gracious, and courageous. When she became president of ASPA, she could have basked in this achievement and chosen not to “ruffle any feathers.” But Nesta was no “wall flower;” she chose to do more. She boldly supported the efforts of ASPA pioneers Joan Fiss Bishop and Phil Rutledge and appointed National Committee for Women in Public Administration (SWPA’s precursor) co-chairs Dona Wolf and Sherry Suttles, who were no “shrinking violets.” Dona had served on ASPA’s staff and Sherry later become the first African American woman to serve as a professionally trained city manager. As a committee, NCWPA could have been disbanded at the will of the National Council.
Nesta supported the concept of Diversity long before the word became common usage. Her view of public service was justice and fairness for all. Nesta was my inspiration and role model (I currently work in court administration), a trail blazer who was not just the token woman to do something first.
Very few have worked harder to “bridge the gap” between academics and practitioners. I deeply regret that I never interviewed her in-depth on video. I will never forget my last telephone conversation with her while I was writing a book chapter. She was so encouraging and accessible. I hope Fran Burke is finally successful in convincing ASPA to name a national award in Nesta’s memory.
Brava, dear Nesta! You will never be forgotten. I was blessed to know you. We are all in your debt.
Nancy Foye Cox
ASPA National Council – District II Representative
Nesta Gallas will be remembered as a woman and a professional of exceptional distinction and commitment to the cause , which she chose to make her own. She belonged to a generation which witnessed the Depression and the Second World War , but also the establishment of the New Deal , the Administrative State and the United Nations. She was there at the creation of the American Society of Public Administration , which she served for many years in several capacities. She worked at the UN as an Adviser ,when I joined the Organization ,in 1968. I recall her unwavering optimism and good humor which marked her contributions at staff meetings and activities of the Public Administration Division ,as it was then known. A believer in Development through global cooperation, she was part of a program of action , which also signaled the apogee of Comparative and Development Administration as central to the field which she practiced and she taught. As a teacher and practitioner , she was an inspiration to all those that were fortunate to know her and to have worked with her.
Professor of Public Administration
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Nesta served as President of ASPA when I was first on the National Council. She was an inspiration to all women in ASPA and to all members of ASPA. She was always a professional–she looked the part, acted the part, and inspired ASPA women with her standards, her behavior, and her example at a time when women public administration professionals were very rare. Because of Nesta, ASPA is a better organization today.
Linda Cox McNish, Ph.D
Nesta was my hero. I was the first female to be elected president of ASPA rather than nominated by a committee, as Nesta was. She was my only role model. It is wonderful now to look at all the strong, impressive women who have led ASPA in the ensuing years. I am not sure we could have done it without her. She is greatly missed.
ASPA Past President
The Elegant Nesta Gallas
There have been a great many testimonials to Nesta M. Gallas published on the Internet, all attesting to her status as the first woman president of the American Society for Public Administration and to her many contributions to the profession. All are richly deserved. If she were alive, I am sure Nesta would appreciate these expressions of great respect and affection.
But these many tributes have not “humanized” her. She seems more a statue than a person. That is not the Nesta I knew for 60 years. So I would like to present another side of the story. Nesta lived a long life. She was within less than three weeks of celebrating her 95th birthday.
It must be said early on that Nesta was a very beautiful young woman, with blonde flowing hair. She was also a terribly bright one. Having come to the United States from England when she was about six and settled in Santa Monica, she was a freshman at the University of California at Los Angeles at age only 15. She was also a music prodigy, playing the cello in the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra at about the same time. It was also a period when she was part of a chamber music group at downtown Los Angeles’ most prestigious hotel, the Biltmore. Having graduated with a major in Psychology in 1938, she immediately embarked on a career in the public service with Los Angeles County. It was there she met her future husband, Edward C. Gallas (whom she uneasily supervised for a while).
Though I did not encounter Nesta until she was about 35 and the mother of three, I still remember her as a knockout. Not only was she physically attractive, but she had a grace and a style that separated her from others. Her upbringing in an English household was very apparent, and she never lost her belief in proper manners. She was also quite conscious of her clothing and would have been seen as quite out of touch with the current generation. She proudly pointed out, too, that her apparel purchases did not involve huge outlays. She knew exactly what stores to patronize, both in Los Angeles and in New York, to get the deepest discounts.
To describe Nesta Gallas in one word, she was elegant.
It is not enough, though, to cast Nesta Mabyn Gallas as a single individual. She was not. She was a partner in a terrific enterprise, the coupling of Nesta and Ed. This was a conjugal relationship that came within a couple of months of enduring for 67 years. They were almost exactly the same age when Nesta journeyed to Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1943 to marry Ed. He was in training for the Naval Supply Corps. It seemed to be a marriage that had little chance of survival. On the surface these newlyweds had little in common. Over their many years of marriage, for example, they could never agree on the pronunciation of the name of their older daughter. She was always Kah-ren to Nesta and Keran to Ed. But there was a bond that held Ed and Nesta close together and which you began to sense after considerable time with them. It involved deep love and respect.
Ed and Nesta may have been pioneers in charting the way for dual career marriages, as there were few occasions when Nesta was not equally busy with the demands of work. At times I am sure there were stresses in the family, and my own observation is that Ed became more of a house husband on some of those occasions. One device that may have helped was “the pot.” Two income families can handle their total income in various ways, and the Gallases chose a unique pattern. Their concept of “the pot” was that each of them would contribute an agreed-upon share to the common costs of the household, comprising the pot. Beyond that, they retained the rest of their earnings to use at their personal discretion. The system seemed to work beautifully. I never heard them argue about money.
If observers were to characterize the Nesta-Ed marriage, togetherness would be a most common descriptor. They spent the greatest part of their time, outside working hours, with each other. Bear in mind that they shared a passion for the public service, though their perceptions were quite different. Ed wanted to make things work. Nesta’s aspirations were far more cosmic. But the commonality was great enough that they eagerly attended the meetings of their professional associations, in the fields of Public Administration and Public Personnel Management, with regularity. For years you could expect to see the Gallases together at these sessions. And it was quite wonderful that both were elected to fellowships in the National Academy of Public Administration on the basis of their individual accomplishments, Nesta in 1973 and Ed in 1975. That kind of common conjugal involvement in a professional pursuit is really quite rare. It continued after their retirement, also, with the two engaging in a variety of consulting assignments, a number of them outside the United States. To re-state the obvious: this was a marriage that belongs in the record books.
Finally, little has been said about the amazing Gallas tribe. True, the four kids did have to put up with a working mother and a dad who had plenty on his plate. But they all came out very well. Among them there are three doctorates—in Public Administration, Education, and Law. The younger daughter, the fourth in line, chose a different route. She devoted herself to the arts and has spent her entire career as a teacher of theater and similar subjects in the Vermont school system. All the siblings have achieved high status in their professions. It is a record few families can match, and it perhaps began with the parents seeing that each of the kids got really good educations. There are 11 grandchildren and three great grandchildren who now have some really impressive models to follow.
Frank P. Sherwood