VOLUME 13, NO. 3 June 2001
A legend at WPI long before he made it into the record books for 55 years of service, gentle Joe Gale was a friend to nearly everyone on campus, from the time he signed on in February 1946 until his retirement in July 2000.
At an informal celebration in Higgins House on Jan. 8, about 100 administrators, faculty, alumni, staff and students saluted Joe’s long career and reminisced about his kindness and friendship. President Parrish presented him with a framed copy of "Keeper of the Flame," the profile of Joe that appeared in the Dec. 9, 1999, issue of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
Joe Gale taught generations of students how to weld, said the afternoon’s emcee Rick Sisson, professor of mechanical engineering and head of the Materials Science and Engineering Program. "He loved working with the students. He was ever patient, never critical, and always ready to listen--or to tell a good story."
"Stories were certainly abundant with Joe," says Todd Billings, principal lab machinist. "But that’s not what I remember most. When I moved over to the Washburn Shops in the summer of ’92, Joe made me feel welcome and showed me that this wasn’t just a job. He instilled in me a sense of home."
Joe Gale reminisced about his long life at WPI with family members
John Joseph Bowen Gale is the third generation of his family to work at WPI. His grandfather, his father and two uncles were employed here for many years (one uncle was the first campus watchman). In 1946, A.J. Knight, superintendent of buildings and grounds, offered Gale a job when he heard that Joe would soon be completing his military obligation. Nineteen days after his discharge from the Army, Joe began what would be the longest tenure of any WPI employee.
After a year as athletic fields groundskeeper, Gale transferred to the Mechanical Engineering Department’s newly established welding shop, where department head Carl Gunnard Johnson taught the bright young man how to weld. In return, Johnson asked Joe to teach the students what he had just learned. From that day on, Gale instructed students in general machine shop operations, casting and welding.
When he wasn’t in the classroom or the lab, Joe Gale was WPI’s unofficial ambassador for athletics. He managed the press box for all home football games and was the facility coordinator for Harrington Auditorium and Alumni Gym during the basketball and wrestling seasons. In 1990 the Physical Education and Athletics Department honored him with its Frank C. Harrington Award for meritorious service to WPI athletics.
In 1991 he became the second person to receive the William R. Grogan Award for outstanding contributions by an individual in support of the mission of the University and the welfare of its students.
Gale with a trio of Class of ’49’ers, from left, Harold Melden, James O. Regan and Howard Green
Joe and his wife, Phyllis, still live in their home on West Boylston Street (next door to the house in which he was born) where they raised their two children.
"Joe was one of the guys who taught us the most in terms of welding, forging, running machine tools and making metallurgical samples in the old Washburn Shops," says Peter H. Horstmann ’55. "He taught us real-world, hands-on skills in a way that wasn’t the least bit threatening. He was a wonderful teacher--the antithesis of the austere professor. The undergraduates all loved him."
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