An Garagiola | Editor in Chief
Sometimes we meet a person who leaves a lasting impression, someone who is passionate, generous, caring, always willing to help, or to be there to talk.
For many people at Century College, that person is Jim Galbraith. Even if you’ve never heard his name, chances are you’ve seen him around campus, sitting at a table in the cafeteria, or perhaps waiting for his ride from Metro Mobility.
Galbraith, 55, is a busy volunteer and on-and-off again Century student. “Jim is our unofficial Goodwill Ambassador,” says English professor Ed Coffey. “When we talk, I am always inspired to do more and be a better teacher.”
Galbraith has been a part of the Century community since 1988. He took classes as he could afford them and life would allow. He graduated with his AA degree in 2005. He then went on to Metro State University.
“Jim represents the limitless possibilities that are available at Century for every student,” says Coffey.
Though Galbraith uses a wheelchair, it doesn’t prevent him from being active. He often works out in the Fitness Center. Don Epps, Political Science instructor, recalls the time he said he needed to start working out. “He took me down to the gym, he instructed me how to use the machines—he almost killed me, but he just kept going! If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have gotten a private gym membership,” Epps says.
In addition to being physically active, Galbraith is also one of the most socially-active and well-known people on campus. He can often be found in the cafeteria on West Campus, selling wristbands to support the Veteran’s Club. According to club president Jenny Roach, the wristbands are the main source of revenue that provides free coffee to all current and former military personnel on campus. “The Veteran’s Club would not be the same without Jimmy. He is a cornerstone to our organization, and I’m thankful that he can participate,” says Roach.
Galbraith is also a mentor. “Jimmy has had bad experiences in his own life, but to see him want to make a difference in other people’s lives is very inspiring. To see that—especially in the Veteran’s Club—I think he does provide inspiration for many, many veterans, especially the younger generation,” says Roach.
Galbraith never served but has always been supportive of Veterans. “I know somebody in every branch [of the military]. I like to give back to them when I can,” says Galbraith. His grandfather was a WWII veteran. For 25 years now, Galbraith has been a member of the Sons of the American Legion Post 474 in St. Paul, Minn.
Galbraith extends his support of military personnel at Century. An active member of the Veteran’s Club, he also sits on the Veterans Advisory Board. Comprised of faculty and students, one of their main goals is to help veterans become students.
They do other things as well. “We’re trying to make Century a Yellow Ribbon School,” Galbraith says.
Yellow Ribbon is a post-911 GI program that helps veterans “bridge the gap”. Schools must meet certain criteria set forth by the Veterans Administration. According to the VA, “Schools or graduate programs willing to create a veterans-only scholarship will be matched dollar for dollar by the VA up to the full cost of tuition/fees for the veteran.”
Century’s Veterans Advisory Board is currently filling out the “loads of paperwork needed to be considered a Yellow Ribbon facility,” Galbraith says.
Veteran’s Club Advisor and Century Counselor Justin Hauer says the club is lucky to have him as a member. “He has sold enough (wristbands) to keep the Veteran’s Resource Center (VRC) stocked with coffee…and Veterans drink a lot of coffee,” Hauer says. “What is more important is the visibility he creates for both the VRC and the Veteran’s Club. Maintaining clubs and services at a 2-year college is challenging. In the last six years our Vet’s Club membership has fluctuated between as many as fifty and as few as three members. Jimmy has stuck with and provided valuable support for the club as a member and he has also been our chief ambassador to the rest of the Century community.”
Galbraith is modest about his service. “I just like to give back where I can. Anybody who wears or has worn the uniform is a hero to me,” he says.
When her daughter, Ebba, a 10-year-old Brownie, wanted to raise money for a food shelf, Charlotte Nordstrom, counselor and advisor at Century, immediately thought to ask Galbraith for help. He agreed to sell the friendship bracelets Ebba made at his table. “Jim’s response was, ‘More products, more people is what I learned in my sales and marketing class,’” says Nordstrom, laughing. The proceeds go to Century’s Food Pantry, located in W1010.
Even when he’s not enrolled, Galbraith still spends a lot of time at Century. And despite his physical limitations, he doesn’t let his challenges stop him, says Nordstrom, who has worked with him since the mid ‘90s. “I think he is a role model and inspiration to many students,” says Nordstrom. “We want every student to make meaningful connections to Century. For some, one of them is Jim, and for that we are grateful.”
Hauer agrees. “A wristband customer will get an update on the club, and many other important things happening at Century,” he says. “When I was leaving on Wednesday, Jimmy reminded me to set my clocks for Daylight Savings time over the weekend. How great is that? Having someone like Jimmy around is vital to the culture and history of our institution. He knows and has relationships with hundreds of faculty, staff and students. He is one of the college’s best sources of news and advice. He is the only source of news, advice and companionship that asks for nothing in return from us…well, maybe if you have a dollar you could buy a wristband.”
Galbraith says he has also helped fundraise for the Century Baseball team by selling sweatshirts earlier this year. “He’s our Superfan,” says Baseball Coach Dwight Kotila.
That is not the first time Galbraith has helped raise funds for the students. Kathy Gates, a fitness instructor, was also a faculty liaison for the Century College Foundation. “Jim was always willing to help with fundraisers,” she recalls.
Galbraith is currently studying to be a screenwriter. “My dream job would be writing for the BBC in Great Britain. Their production values are so much better than ours,” he says.
He is taking classes at Metro State University right now. “I’m hoping to be back [at Century] in the spring,” he says.
On his own time, Galbraith gives free tours to prospective students at Century and Metro State University. “If I know someone at Century transferring over to Metro, I’ll offer to meet them on that campus and give them a tour of Metro State. I take a lot of my screenwriting classes there, so I know my way around,” he says.
Galbraith maintains the connections he creates. He keeps in touch with many students on Facebook, often putting up daily happenings and reminders for students. He is also a connection between former students and instructors.
Galbraith says he has met a lot of great people at Century: “I have known the baseball team since its creation, and I am impressed with their dedication both on and off the field, and how they have gone out of their way to make a middle-aged, disabled man feel like I am part of the team. And especially how the Veterans Club, the Baseball team and Century College in general has helped me to forget the fact that I am disabled by seeing the person first instead of seeing the disability first.”
Everything Galbraith does for Century, he does for free and out of the goodness of his own heart. “Every time I see him I tell him, ‘They should just hire you as The Ambassador,’” says Coffey.
“I endorse that one hundred percent,” agrees Gates. “He would be a wonderful ambassador. He has a heart of gold. He truly cares. That’s genuine.”