The Woodlands remembers Roger Galatas

Roger Galatas was considered a founding member of The Woodlands. He passed away Aug. 29.

Roger Galatas was considered a founding member of The Woodlands. He passed away Aug. 29.

Community members reflected on Roger Galatas—widely recognized as a founding father of The Woodlands—and his contributions to the area following his passing Aug. 29.

Galatas served as president and chief operating officer of The Woodlands Operating Company, one of the original real estate developers of The Woodlands, for two decades. According to his longtime colleague Joel Deretchin, Galatas worked to build a community with amenities and neighborhood resources in addition to focusing on the business of building a new town.

Galatas was credited by multiple acquaintances as a founding father of The Woodlands institutions, and remained involved in the area’s development, education, arts and healthcare sectors for years after the township’s founding.

Gordy Bunch, chairman of The Woodlands Township’s board of directors, said in a statement Aug. 30 that Galatas left a legacy as a patron of The Woodlands.

“I didn’t know Mr. Galatas well, but [I] do know he is a part of The Woodlands success story who contributed early on through his work with The Woodlands land and development company. Many of the amenities, open space reserves and laying out of our master-planned community occurred during his storied leadership,” Bunch said. “He remained active in the community, and will always be remembered as one of the key contributors to our hometown's success. CISD named Galatas Elementary School after Roger, and I will always think of Roger when I go into vote at Galatas. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”

Nick Wolda, The Woodlands Township’s director of community relations and Visit The Woodlands president, previously worked with Galatas at the Town Center Improvement District, where Galatas served for a time as an active director. Wolda said he and Galatas collaborated on Town Center projects including the expansion of The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion and the establishment of Waterway Square and Town Green Park.

“Mr. Galatas was dedicated to carrying out the vision of Mr. [George] Mitchell,” Wolda said in a statement. “Many of the amenities we have today in The Woodlands came during his leadership. The Woodlands loses a legend in its history, but his contribution will forever be remembered. Thoughts and prayers with his family.”

Steve Leakey, president of the Montgomery County nonprofit Voter Awareness Council, said he knew Galatas for a number of years. and described him as a consummate gentleman.

“He was very people- and community-oriented,” Leakey said. “He was an outstanding man. He truly is one of The Woodlands' founding fathers. He was involved in the very early years. He was involved in how everything is done from the earliest of days.”

Tim Welbes and Alex Sutton, co-presidents of The Woodlands Development Company, recognized Galatas’s legacies in a press release including his recognition as a Hometown Hero in 1999 during The Woodlands 25th anniversary.

“The Howard Hughes Corporation will miss Roger Galatas and will fondly remember him as a visionary in real estate development and the arts, and a leader in education,” Welbes and Sutton wrote.

Galatas was also one of the founders of The Woodlands Community Hospital in 1985, which became Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center, said Josh Urban, senior vice president and CEO of the hospital.

“I credit Roger and his team with the vision to bring a hospital and greater healthcare to this area, and he made it happen,” Urban said. “They wouldn't settle for anything that didn't meet their plan and vision, so I'm just glad that he stuck with it and helped create this wonderful community …. He’s certainly one of the founding fathers.”

The Woodlands Community Hospital had been owned and operated by The Woodlands Development Company.

Galatas was also involved in establishing The John Cooper School in The Woodlands, and served as a trustee of the school for years after its founding. Deretchin, a former Cooper School trustee, said he worked for Galatas for about 15 years at The Woodlands Development Company, where Deretchin began working in 1977 as director of governmental affairs, and also knew Galatas in his capacity as a Cooper School founder.

“It was a labor of love because we were creating something that had a very, very high standard, for the education that was offered, for the teachers who were hired, and so forth. … We all can thank Roger for that,” Deretchin said.

In an Aug. 30 statement, Conroe ISD Superintendent Curtis Null also commended Galatas’s dedication to the area. Galatas previously served as president of the CISD board of trustees, and an elementary school in The Woodlands now bears his name.

“Roger Galatas was an honorable man, and [was] devoted to The Woodlands. We are proud to be able to extend his legacy of service through our campus, Roger L. Galatas Elementary,” Null said.
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