ShareThis Page

Duquesne University inaugurates Ken Gormley as new president

Natasha Lindstrom
| Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016, 8:27 p.m.

Ken Gormley kicked off his official start as president of Duquesne University with good news for his employees: They're all getting a 2 percent raise.

“Everyone in this university is working hard collaboratively to better serve our students each day, and so I believe it's important to reward that excellence,” Gormley announced to more than 2,000 faculty, alumni, staff, students, dignitaries and other supporters during a formal inauguration ceremony at Duquesne's A.J. Palumbo Center in Uptown.

Gormley, 61, took the helm Thursday as the 13th president of Duquesne University, a private Catholic college with about 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The native Pittsburgher and nationally recognized expert in constitutional law — the ceremony included the reading of a glowing letter from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Jr. — said he intends to use his “lifelong connections” to thrust the institution into the national spotlight.

“I'd like to push Duquesne out onto a bigger stage, both locally and nationally,” Gormley told the audience, through strengthened partnerships with the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, finding more effective ways to engage students and intensifying fundraising efforts to add facilities and resources.

“Our secret weapon is our alumni donors,” he added.

Dozens of local, state and national dignitaries as well as university stakeholders spoke in support of Gormley, including Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh Roman Catholic Bishop David Zubik and Lt. Gov. Mike Stack.

“With his new responsibilities,” said David Wilkins, Gormley's longtime associate and Harvard Law School professor, “he is destined to become a central figure in the world of higher education generally, at a time when universities desperately need the kind of subtle intelligence, openness of mind” and perseverance Gormley demonstrates.

He grew up in Edgewood and Swissvale and served as mayor of Forest Hills from 1998 to 2001. He recalled several out-of-state job offers after graduating from Harvard Law School in 1980, but he decided to stay in Pittsburgh.

“I've always wanted to make a contribution right here in the community where I grew up,” he said.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Christine Donohue said Gormley's appoinment spurred “excitement from the legal community.”

She said she and her colleagues “consult and rely on a regular basis” Gormley's work on Pennsylvania constitutional law.

Gormley ascends into the university's top position after working at Duquesne for 22 years, including as dean of its law school from 2010 through December 2015.

“That's actually a really great thing to see a leader come up through the faculty ranks,” said Tryan McMicken, director and assistant professor of the higher education program at Suffolk University in Boston. “It's still considered like it's a prized posession in academia from the faculty perspective.”

Last year, Gormley faced a short-lived public controversy after Gov. Tom Wolf nominated him to fill one of two state Supreme Court vacancies. Someone anonymously leaked an internal university document about a complaint filed by a female professor against Gormley and another professor in 2006, which the university called unsubstantiated. The report was part of a lawsuit filed against Gormley that was settled privately in 2010.

Co-nominee Thomas Kistler withdrew from consideration amid outrage over a racially insensitive email Kistler had sent. Senate Republicans refused to hold more hearings, and Gormley's nomination stalled.

Gormley succeeds Charles J. Dougherty, who retired June 30 after a 15-year tenure.

Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me