William T Gormley


University Professor of Public Policy
University Professor; Co-Director, Center for Research on Children in the U.S. (CROCUS)


MSPP-Tenure Line Faculty
General profile



+1 202-687-6817





William Gormley, Jr. grew up in Pittsburgh, Pa., famous for its scenic vistas and friendly citizens. As a youth, he attended speeches by prominent politicians and participated in political campaigns.

After attending the University of Pittsburgh, he decided to become a political scientist. He received his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he studied public policy and cheered the Tar Heels to victory over the dreaded Blue Devils. While in graduate school, he also worked part-time as a reporter for the Raleigh News & Observer, sometimes known as the "Nuisance and Disturber."

After leaving Chapel Hill, Gormley taught at the State University of New York. During one memorable year in Buffalo, he experienced a record-setting 200 inches of snow. The following year, at Stony Brook, he experienced an ice storm.

Seeking protection from the elements, he then spent two years in Washington, D.C. directing a NSF-sponsored study of the effects of citizen participation on state public utility commission decisions. That study resulted in a book, The Politics of Public Utility Regulation, and several articles.

From 1980 to 1990, Gormley taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he served for three years as associate director of the Robert La Follette Institute of Public Affairs. In Madison, Gormley worked on a variety of projects involving energy policy, communications policy, environmental policy, and bureaucratic politics. His book, Taming the Bureaucracy: Muscles, Prayers, and Other Strategies, published in 1989, received the Louis Brownlow Book Award for the best book of the year from the National Academy of Public Administration.

After one year as a visitor, Gormley joined the Georgetown faculty as Professor of Government and Public Policy in 1991. During the first part of the decade, he worked especially on child care issues, which culminated in Everybody's Children: Child Care as a Public Problem, published in 1995. He also served as a member of the university committee that created Georgetown's first day care center, known as Hoya Kids. Later, he turned his attention to performance measurement. With David Weimer, he wrote Organizational Report Cards, which analyzes efforts to measure the performance of hospitals, HMOs, public schools, colleges and universities, and other organizations that deliver vital public services.

In 2001 Gormley became co-director of the Center for Research on Children in the U.S. (CROCUS) and principal investigator for the Tulsa, Oklahoma pre-K project. Oklahoma has become a national leader in providing high-quality pre-K to large numbers of young children. The Tulsa project has documented substantial improvements in pre-reading, pre-writing, and pre-math skills for young children participating in the school-based pre-K program (http://www.crocus.georgetown.edu). This work has resulted in numerous publications, in such journals as the Journal of Human Resources, Developmental Psychology, Child Development, the Policy Studies Journal, and Science. In 2010, one of these co-authored articles received the Theodore Lowi Award from the Public Policy Section of the American Political Science Association.

Gormley's most recent book, Voices for Children: Rhetoric and Public Policy, was published by the Brookings Institution Press in 2012. In it, he compares the effectiveness of different "issue frames" for advancing children's programs in the U.S. He is currently writing a book entitled Critical Thinking and the American Dream: Challenges for Educators.

From 2008 to 2010, Gormley served as Interim Dean of the Georgetown Public Policy Institute. He had previously served as Associate Dean from 2001 to 2003.

Several common threads run through Gormley's published work: an interest in government performance and how to measure it; an interest in functional and dysfunctional bureaucratic control mechanisms; and a strong interest in children and public policy. Gormley routinely teaches courses in the Policymaking Process, Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations, and Children, Politics, and Public Policy.

Gormley is married to Rosemarie Zagarri, a history professor at George Mason University who specializes in early American history. A daughter, Angela, attends high school. A stepson, Anthony, recently graduated from George Mason University.


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  • Ph.D. (1976) University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Political Science
  • B.A. (1972) University of Pittsburgh, Political Science


  • German (speak, read, write)