Zach Petroff | Opinions Editor
Oct. 13, 2022
When Duquesne University President Ken Gormley took over in 2016, he posed a question to his newly formed cabinet: “What would these founding Spiritan priests do if they came to Pittsburgh today, rather than in 1878?”
The Rev. Joseph Strub, Duquesne’s founder, was known to walk around the city, listening to what the local church asked, to what people wanted. He then developed an education plan different from anything that had previously been done in Pittsburgh, said the Rev. William Christy, the director of campus ministry and university chaplain.
Gormley, who wants Duquesne to be synonymous with excellence, has similarly spent time talking to students and faculty to learn additional ways to advance the institution.
“I want us to be a national player, one of the greatest Catholic universities in the United States, and we’re well on our way to doing that,” Gormley said in an interview.
On Saturday, during Homecoming and Family Weekend Celebration events, Gormley announced a $333-million goal for a comprehensive fundraising campaign – IGNITE: Forging the Future.
According to a news release, this is the largest campaign in the university’s history.
It will focus on four components: access and affordability; academic programs and facilities; enhancing the student experience and supporting the university’s proposed College of Osteopathic Medicine and other areas centered on integrative healthcare.
IGNITE was conceptualized two years ago, but was put on hold during the pandemic so that the campus could address other urgent needs. After getting through the most-difficult part of the pandemic, Gormley asked his team to start putting concrete ideas on paper, and the concept developed from there.
The campaign is structured around the historical relevance of the university’s deep tradition with the Holy Spirit.
“It’s a beautiful image and something that will convey the energy that we’re seeking to generate with this campaign,” Gormley said.
Saturday’s announcement came on the heels of “positive momentum on a variety of fronts,” including Duquesne alumnus Thomas R. Kline’s $50-million commitment to the university’s law school last month.
The school was renamed the Thomas R. Kline School of Law. Gormley said that the university is putting Kline’s donation toward scholarships for students in the law school, faculty awards and teaching and political programs that benefit the community.
Furthering that momentum, Duquesne has also seen an increase in this year’s incoming class by 15%, according to the release. This comes at a time when first-year enrollment in college across the country has fallen 4.4% year-over-year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics in their annual report.
Gormley attributed the success of increased enrollment to the focusing of a “great deal of energy and creativity with our enrollment management group.”
“I think it is an indication that more and more — and not just in Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania — but across the country, and to a certain extent around the globe, that the Duquesne star is on the rise,” Gormley said.
“There are so many good things happening here. I think it has caught the world’s attention.”
Duquesne has a long history of organized fundraising campaigns dating back to the early 1920s, when university president Father Martin Hehir raised money to build Canevin Hall. In the 1950s and 1960s, former university president Father Vernon Gallagher and Father Henry Joseph McAnulty also raised money to transform Duquesne into a modern campus, which included the building of the Student Union.
Continuing the expansion of Duquesne, President Dr. John Murray Jr. raised almost $200 million to build Academic Walk, and former President Charles Dougherty was able to raise more than $163 million to build the Power Center.
“The entire reason for doing this is to better our students, better our graduates so they have a more prestigious degree and have greater success in pursuing their careers, and ultimately have even more opportunity to serve others which is ultimately our mission at this university,” Gormley said.
“We want to be part of that vision leading into the future where our students and graduates and faculty are part of addressing what is one of the most critical needs in our own country, and also in our own region.”
Key priorities for this campaign include community engagement, expanding the health care reach which include a planned medical school, and providing scholarships to increase the accessibility of Duquesne.
“This campaign will allow us to provide scholarships for students who want to be globally minded citizens,” said Duquesne Provost Dr. David Dausey. “The more we can support our students, with the help of our alumni and friends, the more we are preparing students to make a difference in the world.”
The campaign will conclude on June 30, 2025. To date, IGNITE has raised $235 million.