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March 5, 2021

Donor Spotlight: Alec Gallimore, Michigan Engineering

Michigan Engineering Dean Alec Gallimore in Hill Auditorium

Dean Alec Gallimore giving welcome remarks at the live presentation of 2001: A Space Odyssey at Hill Auditorium.

Michigan Engineering is an important University of Michigan partner and generous supporter of UMS. Their collaborations have created unique and meaningful performing arts encounters for students and faculty across campus. We spoke with Alec Gallimore, the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering at the University of Michigan and a UMS Board Member, to discuss his background with the Arts, favorite UMS memories, and our special partnership with Michigan Engineering.

Tell us a little about your background with the arts – artistic talents, first performing arts experience. Did you grow up with the arts or come to them as an adult?

Growing up, my parents loved to play music throughout our home and encouraged my brother and me to be musicians. We would practice a lot; I was lead guitar and my brother would be on drums. In my youth, I was known for my playing speed and fancied myself a budding Steve Howe, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, or Eddie Van Halen (Eruption!). I don’t play much anymore but I’ve owned a “Made in Michigan” cherry-red Gibson SG guitar since 1977. Fun fact, the Gibson Guitar Corporation was founded in Kalamazoo, Michigan, but moved its production to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1984. Proud to say my ’77 SG was made in Kalamazoo!

When and how was Michigan Engineering first inspired to partner with UMS?

I’ve never viewed engineering as being a purely “left brain” enterprise. Instead, I’ve always seen it as a highly right brain endeavor as so much of what we do is create! One of our values at Michigan Engineering is the combination of Creativity, Innovation, and Daring (C/I/D). We’re always looking for new ways to demonstrate the imaginative aspect of engineering by embracing other forms of creative expression in a very visible way while also illustrating our zest for C/I/D. With this in mind, in 2018, we had the opportunity to collaborate with UMS on a live music-accompanied viewing of 2001: A Space Odyssey in Hill Auditorium for an audience of 3500+. I just couldn’t pass up the chance, especially considering it’s literally one of my favorite movies and has been since childhood.

Please share your favorite UMS performance or memory.

It’s tough to choose since I’ve thoroughly enjoyed so many offerings through both my time as a UMS board member and Michigan Engineering’s partnership. The musical performances have been amazing. Some Old Black Man and the opportunity to meet Wendell Pierce was thought-provoking and riveting. But watching 2001: A Space Odyssey—a movie that set me on my career trajectory decades ago—accompanied by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in the acoustically perfect Hill Auditorium is a memory I will always cherish.

2001: A Space Odyssey in Hill Auditorium

UMS’s motto is ‘Be Present,’ but during these times we hope our community Stays Present until we can safely return to our normal programming. How are you ‘Staying Present’ with the arts?

As I’ve said, engineering is as much a creative field as it is a technical one. I appreciate the various expressions of creativity showcased by UMS and I look forward to when we can come together again in person. In the meantime, all of us can experience the arts in exciting new ways through UMS’ Digital Artist Residencies.

Most recently, Michigan Engineering was a lead presenting sponsor for our production of Some Old Black Man. In addition to the streamed performance, the college held a virtual conversation between the play’s co-star, Wendell Pierce, and Engineering faculty and students. Can you talk about your support for that production and what it means to Michigan Engineering to provide these opportunities for your students, faculty, and staff?

We felt it was important to support this project for two reasons. First, we wanted to do something special for our students, faculty, and staff during this difficult academic year. Second, we wanted to reinforce our increased emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. This upcoming fall, we expect to launch a college-wide DEI education program.

This play and our community’s virtual panel discussion with Wendell Pierce served both purposes exceptionally well. During the discussion, Wendell was able to extrapolate broader issues of social justice from the performance. He reminded us that as engineers “we must solve the problem. Get to the proof.” He further described that, just like in acting, in engineering sometimes the “empty space,” or what is not acknowledged, is what we need to consider.

I marvel how creative people, such as Wendell Pierce, can transcend the physical limitations of our times and still interpret in compelling ways the profound challenges we face as a society. He is an eloquent, insightful spokesperson for the arts and how they can shape our perspective. His digital artist residency, with a focus on social justice and anti-racism, was especially timely and we welcomed the opportunity to be a part of it.