Mr. Rock looked at his watch, and said that Mr. Galatti should by now have reached his office after a flight from Ohio, and suggested that we go upstairs to meet him. As we did so, I learned that Mr. Galatti was a graduate of St. Marks and Harvard, had driven a front-line ambulance in the First World War, and in the years afterward had found time both to work in a brokerage business and to direct the A.F.S., up through the hectic Second World War years and the start of the present scholarship plan, in 1948. In 1954, he had retired from business to devote seven days a week, without pay, to the students.

We found Mr. Galatti talking on the telephone in a small room that seemed even more crammed than the rest of the building with photographs and mementos from AFSers. I noted a plaque testifying that Philippe Aucouturier, a French AFSer in California, had won a regional student speakers' contest; a recruiting poster from World War I; and a framed copy of General de Gaulle's famous announcement beginning "A Tous les Français: La France a Perdu Une Bataille." Among the items I identified on shelves along the wall were beer mugs, a miniature Costa Rican peasant cart, Finnish vases, a filigree ship's model from Portugal, a Guatemalan doll, a Spanish wine pouch, a wooden horse from Sweden, and a red imprint of a Japanese wrestler's hand on white paper. The desk at which Mr. Galatti sat was dominated by an oversized Mexican piggy-bank bearing a sign that said "Please feed me."

Mr. Galatti was a portly man with a large, distinguished head, gray hair, and a kindly, lined face. He looked both wise and humorous, and younger than his seventy-one years. When he had finished his telephone conversation, he greeted me and told me the call was from an Oregon town where an AFSer had to undergo an emergency appendectomy, and that he had been checking on the surgeon and hospital the student's American family had entrusted with the operation. "I have signed statements from the parents of all of the children, authorizing me to act for them in any emergency," he told me. "We insist that we be notified
immediately; either George Edgell, who has over-all charge of the foreign students in America, or I are always reachable day or night. We get our share of the sort of things that happen to teen-agers, but we've had only one fatality." I remarked to Mr. Galatti that I understood he worked in the offices on Saturdays and Sundays as well as being on tap at nights. "It's a very easy thing for me to do," he replied. "My wife is dead and my son grown, and I like this quiet work."

Katherine T. Kinkead. Walk Together, Talk Together. The American Field Service Student Exchange Program. New York: Norton. 1962.

On July 13, 1964, after 49 years of service at the heart of AFS, Stephen Galatti died. In his "Annual Report of the Director General" for the year 1963-1964, he had written:

Sometimes I feel that in this rather complex operation we are apt to forget the aim of our program and so it is good when we are reviewing the past year to see whether or not we have done what we should to fulfil our objective, which is to build every year an increasing number of people who will do their best to bring about international understanding as a force towards peace.

S. Galatti, quoted in W.P. Orrick, The First Thirty Years, AFS International Scholarships, 1947-1976, New York: AFS, 1991.

Robert Thayer, an AFS stalwart of the early high school program days, attributed Galatti's all-absorbing interest in young people to his experience at St. Mark's school.

Stephen had followed his older brother John to St. Mark's and also like John and his father before him, Steve had gone to India to seek his fortune. The war came, however, and he had gone to France with the Ambulance Service.

As a foreigner in the United States (his father was Greek and his mother was, I think, Russian) he was tremendously impressed and very much moved by the way the American boys at St. Mark's School had taken him in. He had suddenly found his place in the world and this acceptance made him feel the importance of young people being without prejudice, and getting to understand the point of view of somebody with an entirely different cultural background.

R. Thayer, quoted in W.P. Orrick, The First Thirty Years, AFS International Scholarships, 1947-1976, New York: AFS, 1991.

AFS had named its new building at 313 East 43d Street for Stephen Galatti, despite his opposition to the idea. Later, in 1969, his bust would be installed in the Museum at Blérancourt.

For the moment, everyone is gathered on the large lawn in front. Between two flagpoles with flags flying, the bust of Mr. Galatti. The youngest returnees don't know much about him. Simply that he came to France in 1915, founded the AFS scholarships in 1946 with the means at hand, died a few years ago. They still don't know why the old timers, when they speak of him, often have to clear their throats in a vain attempt to hide their emotions.

Gérard Sautereau, "Blérancourt, samedi 11 octobre 1969, Inauguration du buste de M. Stephen Galatti", AFS France, n° 11, January 1970

Stephen Galatti's legacy, however, remains AFS's day-to-day life.

In a war he functioned beautifully because he had very good people running the headquarters in Cairo or Naples, Calcutta, Bombay, wherever they were; and what he did was really to keep track of everything, and keep the money flowing. He would sit there with his little pads and pencils and keep track of everything, but he was always thinking.
[...]
He was remarkable in the student program too, because he did know every person in it. He couldn't tell you whether they were in this school or that school, but he was absolutely great if a problem developed with a student. His instinctive kindness and intuitive sweetness knew how to handle the situation. He would solve the problem just like that. That was his great, great talent.
[...]
When we started the Field Service Scholarship program, he still came at three and would stay until seven or seven-thirty. [...] Steve didn't have any money until after his mother died --- he really had no money, and he just spent all his time at the Field Service. He did nothing else but raise money. That was his other gift: he was an incredible fund-raiser.
[...]
There seems to be no question that Steve Galatti made all the decisions and that he wanted to know about everything that was going on.

It is interesting that everyone who was associated with him and the scholarship program agrees that people did what Steve wanted them to do. This is true of volunteers, of staff, of Trustee members and directors, and of donors. Once you had shown an interest in AFS, you were hooked for life.

William Hooton, quoted in W.P. Orrick, The First Thirty Years, AFS International Scholarships, 1947-1976, New York: AFS, 1991.

At the time of his death, Stephen Galatti, in his mid-70's, had slowly been winding down.

He had achieved what he wanted, and he had just received an honorary degree from Harvard. He saw the end then, and he was getting tired. I would see him walk down the street, walking down 43d street, slowly, not as fast as he used to. And I'd see him tired in his office; he would fall asleep in his chair sometimes. We realized that he was aging. It was sad, but it was time he went. He had the lion by the tail. He could no longer run the show single-handed. Things needed more than he could give at that time.

Dot Field, quoted in W.P. Orrick, The First Thirty Years, AFS International Scholarships, 1947-1976, New York: AFS, 1991.

What Galatti left behind was both a spiritual and an organizational legacy. He had been at the heart of the Service, practically from the outset. His first mentor --- and role model --- had been Piatt Andrew, of whom he wrote:

He couldn't bear to have people around him who didn't want to do the job. He couldn't understand how anyone could be taking part in such stupendous events without throwing every effort into what he was doing... It wasn't smooth sailing by any means. Half the story was the jealousy, the clash of wills. If Andrew had catered to everyone, the service would have collapsed. There were all kinds of Americans associated with the war work, and many only to be fashionable or for some personal gain... But Andrew had his vision always. And he wouldn't let anything stop him.

Stephen Galatti, quoted by Andrew Gray, The American Field Service. American Heritage. 1974

It was the AFS spirit --- epitomized by Andrew and Galatti --- that was to be passed on through the field matrix, generation after generation of AFS'ers initiated to the particular combination of seriousness and light-heartedness, openness and enthusiasm, interest in the Other, which was the fruit of the volunteer ambulance driver experience.

On the other hand, Galatti's organizational legacy continued as the ever-lengthening shadow of a quasi-military way of doing things, an organization under the orders of a benevolent dictator. AFS has known a number of benevolent dictators at all levels throughout its worldwide structure, and continues to struggle against the tendency of "telling" its field what to do!

Galatti was a man with a cause. "Modern man" is but a veneer, a new package on a very old product. The primitive violence of modern, nationalistic wars had prompted mankind to "cough up" a primal response: a means to initiate its young both to deep, human values and to a supranational viewpoint. It was Galatti that brought this response "down to earth" and made it happen. He was a crusader, a knight-in-shining armor, a warrior monk. Leading the faithful --- or quarterbacking his team --- Galatti was, after all, a 20th century anachronism, a sort of inversion of the hero of Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee in the Courts of King Arthur. As such, he had created an anachronistic organization, in terms of 20th century, post-industrial "socio-educational service". In the name of the Cause, it was now time for someone to bring things "up to date".

 

More about Stephen Galatti

 AFS Letters, August 1943

"Stephen Galatti is an American of foreign extraction. This in itself is not extraordinary, nor would it be worthy of mention except that his name Is constantly being taken for Italian. For a man both fond and very proud of his Greek forbears, this mistaken identity is a cross to him. Stephen Galatti is a man of intense, stubborn loyalties. When he makes up his mind as to the virtues of man, motives, or matter,-- he has decided! Paradoxically he has an open mind and a willing ear to all and sundry; no one's problems, no matter how small or insignificant, are spurned by him."

Under Construction