Creating an Impact

By: Emily Aasand

Theodore Galambos '53 '54In his free time, Galambos enjoys photography and birdwatching with his wife, Barbra. The couple has four grown children. 

“I’m retired, but they were kind enough to let me keep a little office in the civil engineering building here,” said Galambos. “They also named the structures lab after me, so I still come in a couple times a week to talk to colleagues and graduate students, attend seminars, and write an occasional paper.”

At age 86, Galambos is an honorary member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the Structural Stability Research Council and the International Association of Bridge and Structural Engineering, and continues to be active on the University of Minnesota campus. 

“Not only is it fun, but you’re serving your community, your country, and the world,” he adds. “There is motivation and there is fun.”

As for students who have an interest in pursuing an engineering degree, Galambos sums it up in three words: Engineering is fun.

“Having enthusiastic and caring professors who are open to the students and who can demonstrate them to the fun and excitement of learning new things is imperative,” said Galambos. “I think experience comes through internships and lab work, but I think the biggest contributor is a good professor, and I had that at UND. Jensen was a very big motivator who helped and inspired me.”

Having worked alongside Jensen, Galambos believes one of the biggest contributors to having a successful career is by first having a good professor—one of his biggest motivations for giving back to the university. Galambos has given private support to UND’s civil engineering department and the college of engineering and mines for the last 50 years. 

“I usually just studied and worked, but UND was kind of fun during the ’50s,” said Galambos. “There were just enough students to really get to know a fairly large number of them, which was a great experience.”

During his first two years at UND, Galambos worked as a waiter at a downtown restaurant. The owner was a retired UND professor, who Galambos said was very helpful during the school year. He spent his last two years of college working as UND civil engineering professor Ivan Jensen’s assistant in the structures lab. Jensen’s expertise included testing subsoil for structure design, construction analysis, and occasional investigation and technical representation on cause and effect. As a teacher of problem solving, Jensen’s reputation with his engineering students over the years was “unforgettable.” 

“There are so many good things about UND, but few people know about it,” said Galambos. “People always want to go to fancy schools, but there are good schools up north, and UND is one of them. It’s a great place.”

Theodore & Barbra GalambosGalambos wasn’t the only member of his family to attend UND. His sister received a degree in medical technology, one brother received a degree in civil engineering, and another brother pursued a degree in geo-engineering in math. 

“UND was very good to me,” Galambos said. “I think they offer a very good education. I met some great people there and they helped me a lot.”

Galambos graduated from the University of North Dakota with a B.S. in civil engineering in 1953 and an M.S. in civil engineering in 1954. Galambos received his Ph.D. from Lehigh University in 1959, where he taught until 1965. He went on to teach at Washington University until 1981, before becoming a professor of engineering at the University of Minnesota, where he currently serves as emeritus professor of structural engineering.

Anthony Fauci, an immunologist and head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, once said, “I believe I have a personal responsibility to make a positive impact on society.” That statement resonates with Theodore Galambos.