The University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs sends its condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Dennis M. Gormley.
Dennis passed away, surrounded by his family, on October 15, 2020, in Washington, D.C., from congestive heart failure, brought on by cardiac amyloidosis. He was a prominent figure in the defense intelligence community for nearly 50 years, a beloved professor and mentor for countless students and security analysts, a proud father and grandfather, and an adoring husband for his wife Sonia Ben Ouagrham-Gormley. Dennis was born in Connecticut, in 1943, the son of Lawrence and Anna Gormley.
Dennis was an educator at heart. After graduation from the University of Connecticut with a master’s degree in history in 1966, Dennis had plans to become a history teacher. Instead, the Vietnam War redirected his life towards intelligence and international security. He joined the United States Army in 1966, and after finishing Officers Candidate School as a 2nd Lieutenant, he was selected for a special intelligence assignment at Army Materiel Command (AMC) Headquarters in Washington, D.C., where he prepared and delivered technical intelligence briefings to the AMC Command group of 22 General Officers. He was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for his work at the AMC.
In 1969, he went on to serve as Chief of Foreign Intelligence at the Harry Diamond Laboratories for 10 years, where he pioneered investigation of the Soviet nuclear weapon logistic and nuclear command and control systems, substantially influencing intelligence warning and targeting programs. He received an Army commendation for superior performance for this work.
In 1979, Dennis joined Pacific Sierra Research Corporation (PSR), a consulting firm, specializing in nuclear and missile technology policy, where he rose to become PSR’s Senior Vice President and member of the Board of Directors. Among his many achievements at PSR was the creation of PSR’s Military Operations and Policy Analysis Group, whose many studies helped shape verification protocols for the INF and START nuclear arms control treaties signed between the United States and the Soviet Union. When PSR was sold in 1999, he founded and launched The Blue Ridge Consulting Group, Inc., an international security and defense analysis consultancy, that focused primarily on supporting the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Starting in 2001, he returned to his first passion, education, this time in support to his lifelong career objective of preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
After two consecutive appointments at the International Institute for Strategic Studies notably as a Consulting Senior Fellow at the Institute’s London office, he spent the next 15 years educating the next generation of security experts at the Monterey Institute’s Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) and at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, which he joined in 2003 as a part-time faculty member and Senior Research Fellow at the Matthew B. Ridgway Center for International Security Studies. As a professor, he was admired by his students for his vast knowledge of security issues, and loved for his kindness. He saw the best in his students and encouraged them to achieve excellence. For his work at the University of Pittsburgh, he received an award for teaching excellence.
Of his time at Pitt, GSPIA's Dr. Phil Williams, former Wesley Posvar Chair, said, "Dennis Gormley was a superb teacher who really cared about his students. His mixture of practical experience, deep and wide knowledge about international security issues, and generosity of spirit, combined with an abiding commitment to helping students to do well both at GSPIA and in the job market, had a massive impact. As a colleague, Dennis was judicious, constructive, and helpful; as a friend, no one could have asked for better."
During his long career, Dennis chaired or served on numerous Department of Defense and intelligence advisory panels and frequently testified before Senate and House committees of Congress. For the past five years he was one of 21 commissioners, overseeing the work of the “Deep Cuts Commission,” an international nongovernmental body charged with studying the challenges of achieving deep cuts in global nuclear arsenals.
He also regularly lectured on national security and arms control issues at many academic institutions, including the Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva, Switzerland; Columbia University; Kings College; University of London; Cornell University; the U.S. Army Russian Institute, Garmisch, Germany; and the Geneva Center for Security Policy, among others.
A prolific author, he wrote several books, one of which, Missile Contagion: Cruise Missile Proliferation and the Threat to International Security (2008), was translated into Chinese; Dennis also wrote nearly 250 journal articles, book chapters, monographs, invited papers, and op-eds.
Despite his active professional career, Dennis was also a musician and an athlete. He started singing and playing the guitar at a young age, and often serenaded his wife Sonia with improvised musical pieces. In high school, he played football and baseball. He was an avid skier and ran in numerous marathons including in New York City, Marine Corp (Washington, DC), Los Angeles, and the St. George (Utah) Marathons. He travelled the world with his wife Sonia, but he was the happiest closer to home, driving his tractor on their farm in Rappahannock county, hiking in the Shenandoah Park, cooking elaborate meals or simply being together with his wife, friends, and extended family.
A devoted father and grandfather, Dennis always carved out special time with his children and grandchildren. He was always there to cheer his daughter on when she started running marathons. Later in life he developed a passion for fly fishing and traveled annually to Utah for fishing trips with his son Douglas. He took his grandchildren on bumpy tractor rides, and entertained them with story-telling and his contagious laughter.
Dennis was also a loyal and devoted friend, maintaining close friendships over decades with not only friends from high school and college, but also former colleagues and students. Most of all, Dennis was a true gentleman who approached life with humility, kindness, and generosity.
He will be dearly missed by his wife, Sonia, his children Douglas (wife Stephanie) and Jennifer (husband Mark), along with his grandchildren, Tess, Ruby, Tanner, and Brynn. He is survived by a sister, Deborah Gormley, and was predeceased by his brother, Thomas Gormley
A private memorial service is being planned at Cunningham Turch Funeral Home.
A ceremony at Arlington Cemetery will be announced at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in his memory to funds that support students in need. Gifts can be made to GSPIA at the University of Pittsburgh in honor of Dennis to support graduate students studying public and international affairs, or at George Mason University’s Schar School where Dennis lectured numerous times.