Duquesne University names Law School Dean Ken Gormley as new president
November 4, 2015 2:44 PM
Marie Milie Jones congratulates Ken Gormley, center, after he was named the 13th president of Duquesne University today.
Ken Gormley addresses the audience after being named Duquesne University president.
Ken Gormley, left, and the Rev. Jeff Duaime, chair of Duquesne University Corporation, sit during today's announcement.
Rebecca Gormley, a senior at Duquesne University, greets her father, Ken Gormley, after he was named 13th president of Duquesne University. Mr. Gormley's wife, Laura, looks on.
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Duquesne University Law School Dean Ken Gormley stood on a ballroom stage Wednesday morning where he was announced as the board of director’s choice as the university’s 13th president, a job he will start on July 1.
By 3 p.m. he was back where he feels most comfortable — in the classroom teaching undergraduates about the U.S. Constitution and American presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
“I love teaching,” said Mr. Gormely, 60, who will become Duquesne’s third lay president, replacing Charles Dougherty, who will retire June 30 after 15 years at the helm..
In fact, Mr. Gormley so treasures his interaction with students that he plans to be visible on the campus of 10,000 students and to be able to team-teach a course while serving in the university’s top job.
But make no mistake about it: Mr. Gormley understands that his top priorities as president of the 137-year-old university will be to grow the endowment, complete a strategic plan for the institution’s future and make connections with local foundation, corporate and community leaders.
“My plan is to sit down with elected officials and the foundation and corporate community starting right away. It’s important to have these sorts of relationships,” Mr. Gormley said.
He called his appointment as president as “the greatest honor imaginable.”
He said he is also committed to Duquesne’s “Spiritan mission” set down by the priests who founded the school to provide education to the children of steelworkers and hopes to work with communities such as the nearby Hill District and the Mon Valley, where people are struggling.
Mr. Gormley said he also is excited about raising the prominence of Duquesne’s programs to national and international levels and to shine a light on the research and other work of faculty and students that rivals that of those at top tier universities.
He has had success fundraising as dean and said he is comfortable in the role. “Raising money, it’s something I love doing. Asking for funds to help something you believe in and love is much easier than asking for money for yourself,” he said.
Duquesne board chairwoman Marie Milie Jones said a national search for a new leader was conducted and it produced “a significant pool” of candidates that was narrowed twice. There were three finalists in the final round and Mr. Gormley’s “skills and attributes” made him the top choice.
“He has the ability to fundraise, to be known in the community locally, regionally and nationally and the ability to understand academic excellence and not let our strong standings go down in anyway,” Ms. Jones said.
In addition to his dean and faculty positions, Mr. Gormley is a past president of the Allegheny County Bar Association and a best-selling author with a new book coming out in May titled “The Presidents and the Constitution.” He was also nominated by Gov. Tom Wolf in February to fill one of two vacancies on the state Supreme Court. But the nomination died when the other candidate withdrew.
Mr. Gormley is credited in raising the stature of the law school to the top tier of law schools as ranked by U.S. News & World Report, climbing 25 spots in the past two years.
When he was named interim dean of the law school in December 2008, Mr. Gormley inherited a school in the midst of controversy and disarray following the ouster of the former dean. “We had to turn around a place that was clearly in need of change,” Mr. Gormley said.
By creating an advisory panel of well-known alumni and practicing judges and attorneys he was able to right the ship. He was appointed permanent dean, after a nationwide search, in March 2010.
He recruited top faculty in new areas, increased curriculum offerings, revamped grading scales and renewed faculty emphasis on scholarship.
“We now have concentrations for students if they want to develop them in intellectual property, environmental law or corporate law,” said Nancy Perkins, a professor in Duquesne’s School of Law and a former associate dean under Mr. Gormley.
“He is a very deliberative sort of person. He would consult with people. He put together committees. He’s reached out to the faculty as a whole for a lot of these bigger initiatives,” Ms. Perkins said.
Diane Williams, president of the faculty senate, said the faculty looks forward to working with Mr. Gormley in his new role. “Faculty members were happy to be involved in this important process. We are pleased that the next president was chosen from among our ranks at Duquesne,” she said.
Mr. Gormley, a Catholic, was raised in Swissvale, where his mother was a third-grade teacher at St. Anselm School, and Edgewood. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh and then earned a law degree from Harvard.
He has served as a clerk in federal court, on the faculty of Pitt’s School of Law and worked in private practice before joining the Duquesne law faculty in 1994 at the urging of former president John Murray, who died in February.
He now lives in Forest Hills, where he served as mayor from 1998-2001, is married and the father of three daughters and a son.
Julian Routh, a senior and editor of the campus newspaper The Duquesne Duke, said students wanted a president they could relate to and someone who knows the campus. “I think they will be very happy with this choice. I don’t think there is anybody who knows Duquesne better than Ken Gormley.
Mr. Dougherty was out of town Wednesday and did not attend the announcement that Mr. Gormley would be his successor. Later in the day he issued a written statement:
“Ken has down a deep commitment to the Spiritan mission throughout his career at Duquesne. I appointed Ken as dean of the law school because I knew he was a leader who combines a strong will to succeed with a genuine desire and ability to build consensus. The credibility he had built in turning around the law school will serve him and the university well.”
The university released statements of support for Mr. Gormley from variety of university and community leaders, including County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, former Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg, Bishop David Zubik and various judges.
Michael Galligan-Stierle,president and CEO of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, said he expects Mr. Gormley to be a successful university president.
“He brings an ability to build consensus and to continue to raise the stature of the university. He will be a real plus for the school and the community,” Mr. Galligan-Stierle said.
Mary Niederberger; email@example.com; 412-263-1590. On Twitter @Marynied.
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