Born 2 June 1904 in Wayne County, Illinois, Gladys Charlotte Galligar was the eldest child of tenant farmers. During her childhood she attended one-room country schools, named Black Oak and Bear Prairie, near Fairfield, Illinois. Later, she moved to Decatur, Illinois, to live with relatives and to continue her education, and eventually received a high school diploma in 1925. She earned an undergraduate degree from Millikin University in Decatur six years later. Her studies were suspended twice, once in high school and once in college, for a total of three years, when she was compelled to teach at country schools like the ones she had attended as a child in order to earn money -- at $25 per month -- to continue her education.
She earned a Master's degree and a Ph. D. degree in Plant Physiology at the University of Illinois, and in 1934 she returned to Decatur and Millikin University to teach. On 16 June 1935 in Urbana, Illinois, she married Theodore M. Sperry. From 1934 to 1948 she taught at Millikin, achieving the rank of full professor in 1943 and serving as acting chair of the Biology Department during the 1947-1948 school year. Galligar instructed United States Army Air Force pre-cadets in Basic Mathematics on the Millikin University campus for two and a half years during the Second World War. Later, during the last year of the war she served as an instructor for the School of Nursing at the Decatur and Macon County Hospital. When she moved to Pittsburg, Kansas, in 1948 to join Sperry who had accepted a teaching position at the Kansas State Teacher's College in 1946, she began teaching at the College, but soon thereafter--in 1952--she retired from all teaching. During her career, she taught students in all eight elementary grades, at all four high school levels, taught undergraduate courses, and she directed three students' graduate theses. A Phi Beta Kappa, Galligar belonged to numerous professional organizations, such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Society of Plant Physiologists, the Botanical Society of America, the Wilderness Society of America, the National Education Association, the American Association of University Women, the American Association of University Professors, the Illinois Academy of Science, the Kansas Academy of Science, and the Kansas Ornithological Society.
In Pittsburg Galligar designed Lyrrose, their residence on Paradocs, the couple's name for the one-acre lot that they had purchased in 1949. Built in 1954 Lyrrose was designed for the storage of their voluminous research material and for the vantage of wildlife observation. During the fall and spring especially, she maintained a daily practice of trapping and banding birds. An authority on American antiques, she also collected Staffordshire pottery. In addition to professional articles written for scientific journals, she produced a volume of poetry and eight volumes of a personal journal. With Sperry she published A Check List of Birds: Pittsburg, Kansas, and Vicinity. She died of a heart attack at home 19 April 1975.
Memorial written by Thomas Kreissle
[thanks to Sperry-Galligar Audubon Society]