UNK, Buffett Institute name Kathleen Gallagher first chair for early childhood education

Additional early childhood community chairs to be established for UNL, UNMC and UNO

KEARNEY – The University of Nebraska at Kearney and the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska have announced the appointment of Kathleen Cranley Gallagher as the inaugural recipient of the Cille and Ron Williams Community Chair for Early Childhood Education.

Gallagher’s position is the first ever endowed chair in UNK’s College of Education, and also the first of four community chairs across the NU system to be established by the Buffett Institute in the coming year.

Kathleen Gallagher
Kathleen Gallagher

Gallagher—who most recently was a scientist at the University of North Carolina’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute and clinical associate professor at UNC’s School of Education—will work with both UNK and the Buffett Institute to apply early childhood research in ways that benefit families, early childhood professionals, and communities.

“We are very fortunate to have an early childhood leader like Kate Gallagher joining us at UNK,” said Sheryl Feinstein, dean of UNK’s College of Education. “She believes in our commitment to supporting and increasing the early childhood workforce and is ready to play a leadership role in our outreach to rural areas of Nebraska.”

The Williams Community Chair is associated with a permanently endowed fund established at the University of Nebraska Foundation with a gift of $1 million from NU alumnus Ron Williams of Denver and his wife, Cille. Announced in 2015, annual income from the endowment provides salary support and support for the recipient’s scholarly research and creative activities.

The Williamses also donated $1 million for an endowment that provides annual support to UNK’s College of Education for its academic and outreach programs related to children from birth to age 8.

Gallagher brings more than 30 years of experience in early childhood practice and research in Wisconsin, Illinois, and North Carolina. She has taught toddlers in early intervention, kindergartners, college students in teacher education, and graduate students. Gallagher’s research and applied work focuses on the design, implementation, and evaluation of evidence-based approaches that support the learning and well-being of young children, families, and early childhood professionals in the contexts of poverty and disability. Gallagher has collaborated with research colleagues to receive more than $20 million in grant funding, has published extensively, including 12 articles in peer-reviewed journals, and presented a TEDxUNC talk in 2015 entitled “The Healthy Child: Assembly Required.”

Gallagher holds a doctorate in educational psychology and human development from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She earned a master’s degree in educational foundations from Marquette University and a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and special education from Cardinal Stritch University.

“Cille and Ron Williams have provided an extraordinary foundation to build state, university, and community connections for early childhood education in Nebraska. What an amazing opportunity!” Gallagher said. “I’m excited to join with UNK and the Buffett Institute to work with communities and foster relationships to support children, families, and early childhood professionals.”

The Buffett Institute is working with the NU Foundation and the University of Nebraska to establish additional endowed, tenured community chair positions on each campus. These positions will provide leadership in the areas of child mental health at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, obesity prevention at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and child welfare at the University of Nebraska Omaha.

The expertise and collaboration of the Buffett Institute will be available to the endowed professorships in order to strengthen and magnify their potential impact, said Samuel Meisels, the Institute’s founding executive director.

“The community chair positions were created for individuals who are leaders, innovators, and catalysts for change in their communities,” Meisels said. “Kate Gallagher certainly fits that description. We are thrilled that Dr. Gallagher is joining UNK and the Buffett Institute. Her work embraces opportunities to learn from and teach families, early childhood professionals, and communities at the highest level.”

For more information about the community chairs, visit buffettinstitute.nebraska.edu/resources.


The Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska is an innovative research, practice, policy, and outreach institute that draws on the resources of the four University of Nebraska campuses. The Institute is dedicated to promoting the development and learning of children from birth through age 8. For more information, visit buffettinstitute@nebraska.edu.

Shannon Sherman, (402) 554-3967 or srsherman@nebraska.edu
Todd Gottula, (308) 865-8454 or gottulatm@unk.edu