Success & Impact
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Success & Impact
When Ralph Galati’s plane was shot down over North Vietnam in 1972, beginning a grueling 14-month odyssey as a prisoner of war, he found himself surrounded by mentors.
As one of the most junior prisoners at what was known to POWs as the “Hanoi Hilton” prison, he relied on the guidance and wisdom of the senior officers from the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps who were imprisoned alongside him. Their support helped him survive, and the experience led him to put his life in order, he says. Fifty years later, he’s built a legacy returning the favor, serving as a mentor and advocate for veterans at Saint Joseph’s University and beyond.
Galati, who graduated from Saint Joseph’s in 1970 and was a distinguished graduate of Detachment 750 of the Air Force ROTC, was barely scratching the surface of his military career when he became a POW. When he looks back now, he uses one word to describe that period of his life: “developmental.”
“I learned a lot about myself — a lot about my strengths, which were very few, and my weaknesses, which were many,” Galati says. “But I also had a chance to self correct.”
More than anything, it seems, what he learned was the meaning and value of service to his community. In recognition of his contributions, which include being the first director of the University’s Office of Veterans Services and launching the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV), he has been honored as this year’s Veterans of Influence Lifetime Achievement winner by the Philadelphia Business Journal.
By the time Joseph DiAngelo Jr., EdD ’70, dean of the Erivan K. Haub School of Business, asked his former St. Joe’s classmate to help launch EBV (then the Veterans Entrepreneurial Jumpstart program), Galati’s lengthy career already included time in the Air Force, three decades at IBM, and years as a public speaker and educator at Saint Joseph’s and elsewhere. He was retired at the time, but in keeping with his desire to give back — and, above all else, to ensure that veterans have the support of their communities and their country — he eagerly joined alongside co-founder Andrew Colket ’24 (MBA).
It’s easy to write a check; it’s harder to give an hour of your time.
In a matter of months, what began as “two guys and a dream,” as Galati says, turned into a program that has now graduated more than 200 veterans and inspired over 300 instructors to volunteer their time.
“The biggest high was watching these veterans succeed, or putting them on a path toward success and realizing there are lots of people out there who want to help them,” Galati says.
Colket says Galati is a man defined by “humility, selflessness and being in service to others.” When he meets a veteran, Galati is known to first thank them for their service, and then insist that they access every benefit available to them.
“It’s part of his DNA,” DiAngelo says. “His whole time here was always about serving others.”
In his 70s now, Galati knows that his time as a POW makes him a compelling figure. That’s why he stays active, sharing his story whenever he’s asked, including the short conversation he had at the Hanoi Hilton with former Senator John McCain, whose time as a POW overlapped with Galati’s. When McCain was released, he let Galati’s wife know that her husband was “pretty skinny and still pretty ugly,” but, more importantly, he’d be home soon. And he was — filled with conviction that persists to this day.
“It’s easy to write a check; it’s harder to give an hour of your time,” Galati says. “I’d ask people to find something you’re passionate about and put a little bit of effort into it.”
These days, his own effort includes hosting “Veterans Today,” a program that offers veterans and their families advice and information on benefits, suicide prevention, readjustment and transition, entrepreneurship and more.
“The biggest challenge is finding [veterans] in our communities and forcing them to take action on their own behalf,” Galati says. “It will serve them and their families well, and if we can put them on a path to success, we can say mission accomplished.”
To DiAngelo, Galati’s life is reminiscent of St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuit order, who suffered life-threatening injuries in battle, spent more than a year recuperating and emerged with a newfound commitment to service.
“When [Galati] came out, he spent the rest of his life trying to make things better for others who did their service,” DiAngelo says. “That’s a guy who lived and is still living the life of St. Ignatius.”