A change of leadership is taking place at the nation’s largest ham radio organization, the Connecticut-based American Radio Relay League. After three decades at the helm, Dave Sumner is stepping down as CEO and will be replaced by former investment banker and businessman Tom Gallagher, whose ham callsign is NY2RF.
Beginning in late February, Gallagher will serve as “CEO-elect,” learning the details of ARRL life in Newington before taking the reins himself in mid-April. He was chosen by the ARRL board of directors this winter, several months after Sumner announced his intention to retire following four decades at the agency – the last 34 of them as manager and CEO.
Gallagher, of West Palm Beach, Florida, has been a licensed ham operator since 1966, having been influenced by the (Philadelphia) Franklin Institute’s amateur radio station (W3TKQ) while attending the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. He has been an investment banker and financial services executive, with leadership positions at JP Morgan Chase in New York and Wachovia Capital in North Carolina. Gallagher has also been an adjunct professor at the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.
Business savvy not withstanding, Gallagher claims to be “an incurable HF DXer and inveterate tinkerer” at his ham station in Florida. A member of the West Palm Beach Amateur Radio Group, Gallagher says talking to European and Latin American stations on HF (shortwave) are among his favorite activities, according to his profile on the Quarter Century Wireless Association website. Gallagher has both modern and vintage equipment with wire antennas and maintains a high-speed multimedia digital repeater in the West Palm area.
Meanwhile, outgoing CEO Dave Sumner is praised for leading the ARRL through much of ham radio’s growth from the late ’70s to now. Changes to the hobby that occurred during his watch include creation of the volunteer examiner (VE) program; access to the so-called WARC bands which gave hams frequencies on the 12, 17 and 30 meter bands; the end of a Morse Code requirement for all levels of license; streamlining of the license structure; and legislation which allows ham operators reasonable accommodation to antennas and towers in residential areas.
In late February, Sumner was presented the prestigious Michael J. Owen Award from the International Amateur Radio Union, in honor of Sumner’s 17 years as IARU Secretary, where he had input on worldwide radio regulations during conferences held in Geneva.
“I am passionate about amateur radio,” Sumner said during a keynote address at the Orlando (Florida) HamCation, where the IARU award was bestowed. “Our challenge is to explain our passion – how to convey it to younger generations that have grown up at a time when instant global communications is taken for granted. Can we do it? Can we explain the allure of acquiring the knowledge and skill to communicate anywhere on, or in orbit around, the planet without relying on any infrastructure whatsoever? I believe we can.”
The ARRL celebrated its centennial in 2014 with a convention in Hartford, Connecticut, hosting thousands of visitors from around the world.