‘Always smiling’: David Gallagher ’20 remembered for his optimistic, caring personality
Gallagher, who was a member of the Big Green lacrosse team and Theta Delta Chi fraternity, died while in Hanover for the delayed 2020 commencement ceremony in August.
A former member of the Dartmouth men’s lacrosse team, David Gallagher ’20 — known as “DG” by his teammates — left a profound impression on his team and beyond with his constant smile, optimism and selflessness. Those who knew Gallagher remember him for his kindness, his athletic ability and his happiness.
“I thought of him as just the nicest person,” Henry Stites ’22, a friend and teammate of Gallagher, said. “I thought he was just the standard of courtesy and kindness that we should see in the world.”
Gallagher died at age 24 in Hanover on Aug. 7 after attending his class’ commencement ceremony the day before, according to an announcement from the College. Gallagher died of “severe injuries” sustained under the Ledyard bridge.
A native of Downingtown, Penn., Gallagher graduated from Downingtown West High School. During his time at Dartmouth, he was on the men’s lacrosse team and a member of Theta Delta Chi fraternity. Gallagher studied government and graduated in 2020. At the time of his death, he worked for Bellwether Asset Management as an analyst in Los Angeles. He is survived by his parents Michael and Marea Gallagher, his sister, two nieces and three grandparents.
Peter Rizzotti ’22, a member of the men’s lacrosse team, recalled meeting Gallagher for the first time when Rizzotti stayed with Gallagher overnight during his first visit to Dartmouth. Rizzotti said that Gallagher was “always in a great mood.”
“You could always count on him to have a smile on his face,” Rizzotti said. “Even if David was having a down day, he never let it show on the outside. He was always positive, he was always smiling.”
According to Stites, who was also in the same fraternity as Gallagher, Gallagher was “one of the nicest and most friendly guys out there.”
“He had an infectious smile that was pretty unparalleled,” Stites said. “From the start, being a freshman and [Gallagher] being a junior, he made me feel very welcome and comfortable from the start of my college career. And that was just a result of his words and his friendliness.”
Stites said that Gallagher was also his big — an upperclassman who guides new members of a Greek house — in TDX. Although Stites said that this mentorship “isn’t that huge of a deal in our fraternity,” he was “really proud” that Gallagher was his big because of how kind he was to everyone
Albie Austin ’20, a friend of Gallagher’s, said that he and Gallagher met during the first week of their freshman year. Austin said that Gallagher saw him at the gym and introduced himself, noting that Gallagher “had the biggest smile on his face.”
Austin, who is from Philadelphia, recalled that he and Gallagher would hang out during winter breaks to get food from Wawa together after working out. One of Austin’s favorite memories with Gallagher was during their senior year, when he and Gallagher would drive on Interstate 91 with other friends to listen to music and look at the fall foliage.
On the field, Gallagher’s personality was evident through acts of selflessness. Stites recalled that during Gallagher’s senior year, there was a void on the defensive midfield side, and the team “needed someone to step up.” According to Stites, Gallagher did so — changing from a position he had played his entire lacrosse career to learn a new position — leading to the team’s best season start since 2006.
“That was something that I think only David would have accomplished the way that he did and it ended up leading us to a lot of success,” Stites said. “We [saw] some of the best results we’ve seen as a program, so I credit a lot of that to David being such a team player.”
Even in Gallagher’s last days, he was caring for others. According to Andrew Johnston ’23, who attended Gallagher’s funeral service on Aug. 15, Gallagher’s father shared a to-do list from Gallagher before traveling to Hanover. It consisted of working out, going to the grocery store and buying blankets for homeless communities in LA.
Johnston said that the anecdote stood “for everything that DG was about.”
“You don’t see many people in their early 20s that are in finance in L.A. that get [their] groceries, work out and then give blankets to the homeless,” Johnston said. “I think that was a pretty minor thing, but I think it also stands for everything that DG was about.”
Rizzotti said that attendees included his teammates on the men’s lacrosse team, members of TDX and friends from a number of other universities, all of which showed “how loved and appreciated he was.”
Stites added that there were more than 60 former and current lacrosse team players at the service, including teammates from Gallagher’s class, which he noted was an “especially close” class.
“They exited early down the hall and went outside [and] lifted their lacrosse sticks up to form a tunnel for people to walk through as the bells rang, which definitely felt surreal,” Stites said. “I think it was a beautiful moment, and I think it’s what David would have wanted… it was really beautiful to see everyone coming together for their teammate and their brother.”
According to Austin, the team decided to hold their lacrosse sticks up as a way of honoring their teammate.
“It was definitely a very emotional moment as it was happening, but it was very nice to be able to honor him in that way — to have us all there and paying our respects,” Austin said.