Investing in imagination
Dennis Galucki’s lifelong learning machine shows no signs of slowing
Photo by kc kratt
If Niagara Falls could talk, the cascade might sound like Dennis Galucki: a powerful torrent of words, ideas tumbling like watery froth endlessly churning. The former investment advisor now dispenses ideas, under the auspices of the Center for the Study of Art & Architecture, History & Nature or C-SAAHN (pronounced like the artist Cezanne), a digital enterprise and network he founded nearly a decade ago.
Through C-SAAHN and ImagineLifelongLearning.com, Galucki produces a weekly IMAGINE lunchtime lecture series held in the Central Library downtown. The format: a half-hour video is linked to a live lecture delivered by local experts with revelatory looks at cultural landmarks like the Darwin Martin House and the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site. Galucki, a lively seventy-five, seems the poster child for lifelong learning. An industrial engineer, the Black Rock native got into the investment world as an avocation, and the career detour stuck. How it transmogrified into a passion for architectural preservation and local history, art appreciation, and a reverence for nature—not to mention what might be called a spiritual take on investment strategy—is simple, really. It’s the story of a life well-lived, one teeming with adventure and outreach. Galucki practices what he preaches about lifelong learning, but it’s also clear he is a born teacher. Here’s his explanation of how he found his way to arts/culture from a business launching pad—and why that maybe isn’t such an unusual trajectory.
Tell us about your early influences—and the investment philosophy that got you noticed.
I had a Courier-Express paper route when I was a kid. I was the oldest of six; born in Black Rock, and my family moved to Kenmore when I was in third grade. I was a carrier out there for five years and I learned some business management, and saving money. I was in the first graduating class from Kenmore East, and went to the General Motors Institute in Flint, Michigan, from there. Got my bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering and went to work at Chevy in Tonawanda for a couple of years. But I always had an interest in the stock exchange. When I was a kid, I bought some GM stock, ’cause my dad worked there. When I had a chance to join a brokerage firm in downtown Buffalo, I took it. After a time with a couple of different firms, I joined the Dean Witter office—retired from there in 1998, after seventeen years as vice president for institutional sales. By then, I’d developed an investment philosophy called Invest In Life, and got some national attention for that. Basically, it was not about being a big producer, but investing in what you live. Like Warren Buffett. You should know what you own, and why you own it.
You teach The Art of Investing, a seminar at Chautauqua Institution every summer, but still you invest most of your time in cultural enhancement. What’s the connection?
I hung around money for thirty years. Now, I am interested in exploring ideas, no money involved. I’m thinking about how to keep our wonderful cultural institutions thriving—and helping people learn about them, and access them. I’ve been a long-time docent at the Darwin Martin House, and the Albright-Knox. Summers, I lead Landmark Cruises on the Miss Buffalo II. And at Chautauqua, we have Buffalo Day every year—July 3 this year. Everyone who’s from Buffalo gets in for free. It’s part of our heritage, an old-fashioned notion of a life based on certain pillars that we see promoted in our municipal buildings, like Old County Hall, and the old Goldome of Buffalo Savings—where you’ll see murals and sculptures depicting justice, agriculture, commerce, and what was once called mechanical arts. These are the tools we develop to make life easier. At the bank, they celebrated power, commerce, industry, and the arts. When Chautauqua was founded in 1874, the focus was on art, education, religion, and recreation. That still resonates. The question then was how best to use newly acquired leisure time. Lifelong learning is the key, and I am devoted to that.
You are full of ideas about how to harness the latest technology to bring Chatauqua Institution ideals out of that rarefied atmosphere.
That’s the thing: Chautauqua is nine weeks, and I want to bring that kind of thinking, learning, and discussion out of that place and out into the world, to people who might not easily get there—to Buffalo, through all fifty-two weeks of the year! Through C-SAAHN, we’ve created a digital archive on all manner of topics that folks can access. I helped the library reimagine itself as a town square, a place where people can gather for information. I helped get the ball rolling to bring the National Trust for Historic Preservation conference here in 2011. The world thinks we’ve got a treasure chest up here. I call us the nation’s attic, where people can come and explore a trove of art, architecture, history, nature. And I think we can do more, bring more information out to a wider audience, through accessing new technology. That’s what I’m working on.
So, no calm, quiet retirement for you?
Why wouldn’t you want to live life fully? I believe in using the time we have left to really live.