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(2009-2016) Dean Ken Gormley

Ken GormleyGormley came to Duquesne from private practice as a lawyer specializing in litigation, and from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, where he had been hired by then-Dean John Murray. A Pittsburgh native who earned his law degree at Harvard, Gormley is an expert in constitutional law who studied with former Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox, among others. His 1999 biography of Cox won the Bruce K. Gould Book award for best publication relating to the law, and at the time of his interim appointment, he was completing his second book, The Death of American Virtue, an in-depth examination of the Clinton- Starr controversy that threatened a presidency and divided the nation. 

Over the years, Gormley had produced many major events on campus, bringing in key figures (including Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Samuel Alito) and organizing programs on historical events such as President Truman’s seizure of the steel industry, Robert Kennedy’s term as attorney general, President Ford’s pardon of President Nixon, and the Supreme Court’s historic Brown v. Board of Education ruling. He served as the university’s associate vice president for interdisciplinary scholarship and special projects, and was the first academic to serve as president of the Allegheny County Bar Association in that organization’s 138-year history. 

Professor nancy D. Perkins, a member of the Duquesne Law faculty since 1993, was named associate dean, and Gormley immediately assembled an advisory board of prominent local legal figures (chaired by Chancellor John E. Murray, Jr., Justice Cynthia Baldwin, L’80 and President Judge Emeritus Joseph Del Sole, L’65), to engage with faculty, students and alumni during the leadership transition.

Gormley’s 15 months as interim dean were marked by continued progress. In August 2009, the new Bridget and Alfred Peláez Writing Center was dedicated. Hailed by Gormley as “the most significant improvement to the Law School in decades,” the new facility was funded by a $500,000 gift from an anonymous alumnus in honor of Professor Peláez’s 44 years of service. Peláez insisted that the center also bear the name of his wife, who had recently passed away. 

Underscoring Duquesne’s focus on writing skills, the first-year student orientation expanded to a full week, with three days devoted to intensive research and writing preparation. a new clinical program in electronic discovery was also established. The nation’s first of its kind, the e-Discovery Clinic simulates the complex steps in reviewing digital files in preparation for trial.

The same semester, the entire Pennsylvania Supreme Court convened in a rare special session on Duquesne’s campus, coinciding with a special issue of the Law Review honoring the life and career of the late Chief Justice ralph Cappy, as Gormley placed a new emphasis on the Duquesne Law Review and other student publications. 

On February 23, 2010, Gormley announced the creation of new resource funds to assist minority law students. The Charles Hamilton Houston Scholars program was named in honor of a law professor and mentor to Thurgood Marshall, the first African American appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Houston’s son, a 1968 Duquesne Law graduate, and Marshall’s son were present—along with former Dean Davenport—for the program’s inaugural events.

On March 29, 2010, University President Charles J. Dougherty appointed Gormley to a full term as dean. The announcement followed a wave of national media publicity surrounding the release of The Death of American Virtue, which earned Gormley his second Bruce K. Gould Award and a coveted Gavel Award from the American Bar Association.

“Being appointed to serve as Dean of Duquesne Law School is not just a supreme honor,” Gormley wrote in the Spring 2010 issue of the alumni magazine, which had recently been retitled The Duquesne Lawyer. “It is an awesome responsibility as we step out front to lead the legal academy, and the legal profession, in marking the Law School’s hundredth anniversary in 2011.” 

On July 1, 2016, Gormley became Duquesne University's 13th president. Gormley is the third lay president in the University's 138-year history.