Economics Professor Gallaher’s No Free Lunch Finds a Young Disciple

Note: This post is from our intern – Chris Ensch. Chris attended a recent Rotary meeting with me and ran into his old economics professor from High School (College Equivalency), my friend and fellow Rotarian, Mike Gallaher. Chris will graduate from Baylor University with a BA in Economics next month. 

Economics Professor Gallaher’s No Free Lunch Finds a Young Disciple

In my twenty something years of life, I have had a lot of mentors. Coaches, teachers, friends and family who dedicated some of their time to help me develop as a student, athlete, and man of faith.

All left an impact on my mind, but the ones who influenced me the most always had a subtle way of conducting themselves.

In high school I had a seasoned economics professor that had a particularly traditional approach to teaching.

At the top of the hour, Mr. Gallaher would reach to the top left corner of the whiteboard with a black marker and start making notes as he lectured. Long, winding proofs and formulas would fill the board while all of us furiously tried to keep up with the man’s wispy writing.

After he had sufficiently filled every blank space available he would turn around to the class and bark out “got it?”, erase everything that he had just printed and start again at the top corner of the board where he had left off.

I loved it. I was hooked.

And at some point while I was sitting in the front of class observing Gallaher’s unique charisma, I found myself destined to be an econ major.

One of the more memorable moments from class was about midway through the semester when we were talking about opportunity cost.

And at this point in the lecture our professor was well on his way to filling the board for the third time.

He gave us a few examples of what he was erasing on the board. “A single $4 coffee from Starbucks invested at 10% for 50 years is really $470.  A $9 lunch is really $1,057 in future wealth GONE.”

Gallaher turned and looked at me, Then back to the board.

“There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch folks.” he says for the eighth time this week.

Once he had filled the board with around a dozen time value of money calculations, Gallaher turned his focus on my second row desk and asks again in a hushed tone, “you got it?”

I took a look around the class as he erased his way through our work to realize I was the only one that wasn’t completely drooling on my desk.

That class in high school was years ago, but I’ll always remember the professor that kept lecturing to make a difference to one individual person – me.

I’m grateful for the professor that taught for the sake of one impression. Something clicked for me then, and though I wouldn’t come to fully understand it until much later, he knew.

To Gallaher it never mattered whether the whole class understood the lessons. It was his noble understanding that the world can be changed, one student at a time. 

Now as I embark on my own career of helping others realize their financial goals, I feel a real sense of calling to make finance more personal, the way my professor did for me.