By Andrew Holman | Sports Editor
President Ken Gormley was inaugurated as the newest president of Duquesne University on Sept. 22. He has already brought a sense of excitement to campus and has shown his dedication to the students. We sat down with him to discuss his plans for Duquesne Athletics during his presidency. This interview has been edited and condensed.
Q: What is your vision for Duquesne Athletics as a whole during your presidency?
A: Athletics is really important for any university because it is one way that students and their families and alumni and the whole campus community all connect. The goal is to make this a wonderful experience for the student-athletes. It’s a great way to shape a person’s life if they are not only exposed to the discipline of athletics, but exposed to it in the context of a challenging academic environment and in the context of a place that cares very much about how we conduct ourselves as competitors. It’s something that can bring a campus to life, and I believe we can do more to make that happen.
Q: Although you are just now assuming your position as president, you have been active on campus, so what are your thoughts on Dave Harper in his first year as athletic director?
A: Well, I think Dave Harper was just a fabulous hire. I think he is a game-changer himself. He not only has experience in running athletics but in fundraising. That’s a very rare combination and increasingly important in modern collegiate sports. He is an extremely strategic thinker, he is a person with big ideas and very pragmatic in terms of how one needs to go about systematically to accomplish them, so I think he is absolutely the perfect choice for Duquesne and is the person who can help transform us.
Q: How do you hope to return Duquesne Athletics back to its “glory days?”
A: You always want to invent a new set of glory days. You want to re-imagine the whole notion of success. What I do feel very strongly about is that we have to really pay attention to athletics as a key driver of the university and look at lots of different ways that we can make this a really successful program. The key is to recognize its value to this university and to begin pushing us forward.
Q: Being a member of the Atlantic 10, basketball is always at the forefront of athletics discussion. What are your thoughts on Dan Burt and his success with the women’s program?
A: I think Dan Burt has just been a phenomenal addition to Duquesne. He is a gentleman. He is a very creative recruiter and coach. I had the opportunity to attend several of the women’s basketball games last year and actually went in to lead the prayer in the locker room in one game and you can just see the respect for Dan Burt on the faces of all the players. He is truly a leader and I think that’s a big part of their success as a team.
Q: Now what are your thoughts on Jim Ferry and the way he has run the men’s program? Do you expect an elevated level of play this year after what many people would consider a few disappointing seasons?
A: Well, it’s all about building a program and Jim Ferry is in his fifth year, I believe, and the program is being built. Last year was the first time in five years that we went to a postseason tournament. That was a significant accomplishment. We have had some great success in recruiting the past year, so this is an important year, and I think there’s good reason to hope that we are going to see some good things — some results of the steady-building that has been going on.
Q: Do you have any plans to increase funding for athletics?
A: Well, the funding piece of things is directly related to strategic planning, so it’s very important that we do it in an orderly process. I think when it comes to athletics, they have been working very hard to develop their own strategic plan. Clearly, we have the Palumbo Center sitting out there. Not only is it a the centerpiece of our basketball program in terms of our facility, but it is also sitting smack in the middle of the Uptown area where the mayor and the county executive want to develop more. One important piece of that is what types of external funding we can come up with to try to enhance the beauty and usability of that facility.
Q: Do you have any plans to make any shifts in the athletics Duquesne offers, say adding any new programs to the department?
A: I don’t have any immediate plans to do anything different. I think it’s nice that we just added women’s bowling. I think that, inevitably, there will probably be additional athletic teams created, as the number of females on campus has increased. I’m not a firm believer in radical, impulsive change. Again, just trying to enhance those things that are already in existence so that they are operating on all cylinders.