Dennis M. Gormley 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 ten 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’s 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. Ridgeway 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.
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 http://giveto.pitt.edu/giveGSPIA to support graduate students studying public and international affairs, or at George Mason University’s Schar School where Dennis lectured numerous times ( http://schar.gmu.edu/ScharEmergencyFund
It is with greatest sadness that I have just learned, this day, of Dennis’s passing.
I worked with, and considered myself a friend of Dennis, both in academia and government.
A more generous soul I cannot imagine, especially amidst an environment that does not always accept such men of humility, strength of insight, and warmth.
I deeply mourn his passing, and express my sincere condolences to Sonia and family.
Met Dennis at at 12. We were close friends ever since. Too many teen antics to recount but a few are in a book I wrote titled “Tires Optional””. He is on the cover and said to me after reading it “ Rick, you are Hemingway come alive” !!! Too funny, him saying that to me. :))
This news has shook me to my core — and I just found out today. Dennis Gormley was my professor at GSPIA 2006-08, and he is every bit the person that we have read about. He was quintessential is helping me get my first job post-graduation. I always wondered if I embarrassed him or let him down as I did not do so well at that job straight out of school without a network. He staked his reputation for me to get that. I tried so hard because I was so concerned he would look bad based on my performance that it still literally haunts me and any job/help I take to this day. Bit this goes to show how generous, magnanimous, and kind he was. He would make time for us students, and he graciously accepted my request of him to be my mentor….little old me. Really no one in comparison to all the great accomplishments, ongoing work, extensive network, and family commitments he had going on. I am forever grateful for Professor Gormley, and I will remember our nuclear and, then lack of countermeasures for cruise missile conversations we would have at Hemingway’s with Bass Ale and salad with French fries on top (Pittsburgh thing). And I was and still am honored that I was able to provide early reads to some of the articles or chapters he was writing. He was crazy intelligent. I marvel and how anyone can be so intelligent on so many different things with that level of expertise, and how he was able to bounce between DC and Pittsburgh, and Shenandoah, and all his speaking engagements, and spend time with his family, and write seemingly effortlessly. I will miss his conversations, his sharp wit and intelleect, and his smile. He serves as an example to us all on how to maximize our potential and serve others. My deepest sympathies to his entire family. Godspeed Dennis.
My dear brother Dennis-I will miss him so! Growing up, he loved taking care of his little sister, or so I thought. I remember him letting me win at arm wrestling, taking me down to Hubbard Park to ice skate, teaching me how to dance after he was on American Bandstand, even attempting to teach me how to play the guitar (to no avail), but most of all babysitting me-which usually involved tying me up and tickling me. Memories like these will keep him deep in my heart. God bless you, Dennis.
Much love to Sonia, Doug, and my godchild Jennifer.
I have known Dennis since UConn. Over the years since, Dennis would me copies of his books on important strategic issues for the USA and the world. I found them difficult to understand but was proud to know the author and was grateful for his important works protecting the security of America and the world. Thank you, Dennis. So much to remember you for and so proud of your contribution to ensure the safety of the planet. My condolences to Sonia, Douglas, and Jennifer.
I have known Dennis since UCONN. Over the years Dennis would send me copies of his books on important strategic issues for the USA and the world. I found them difficult to understand but was proud to know the author and so grateful for his important works protecting the security of America and the world. Thank you Dennis. So much for Sonia and the family to be proud of.
My condolences to Sonia, Douglas and Jennifer.
Hi Dear Sonia,
I am so sorry to hear this sad news. I remember when you both came to Isodarco and how happy everyone was. That was many years ago, and it is a comfort to know that you had those years together. Dennis was a very good person and he made many contributions to projects at Cornell, as elsewhere. We will miss him.
Mon très très cher BROTHER-IN-LOVE
Je ne te cache pas que les mots me paraissent fades face à l’intensité des sentiments que j’éprouve pour toi et pour ma sœur bien-aimée Sonia.
Je te dis donc en toute simplicité MERCI.
Merci d’avoir croisé le chemin de vie de ma sœurette Dont je mesure la douleur d’être séparé de son âme sœur.
Ta fidélité, ton amour profond et sincère continueront a faire vibrer son cœur et le cœur de tout ceux que tu aimes et qui t’aiment.
On ne ce verra plus,
mais je garde Dans mes
yeux ton lumineux visage.
MERCI de faire partie de notre vies.
Ta SISTER-IN-LOVE, qui t’aime.
Sonia: It was such a joy to have known Dennis, and to have been a part of your many happy times together in Pittsburgh, Flint Hill, Shirlington…and the UK and China! My only regret is to not have travelled with you both to that conference in Turkmenistan! Dennis was truly an amazing man–in character, kindness, and intellect—and he will be greatly missed!
I send my condolences to you and Dennis’ family and friends.
I am so sorry for your loss. I celebrate the joy of your life together, and wish you solace in the memory of a life and love well lived.
Keeping you in my thoughts,
I knew Dennis for a few years during which time we had many lovely conversations in my office. He was such a kind, gentle and intelligent person. I will miss him greatly.
Sonia, I know how much you love Dennis and how devastated you are right now. Please know I am thinking of you.
We were greatly saddened to learn of the passing of Dennis, our old friend. He meant so much to us and the many others who knew him over the years as a work colleague, mentor, scholar, or teacher, but even more to those who also were fortunate enough to know and appreciate Dennis a good friend, family man, and neighbor. Our hearts and best wishes go out to you, Sonia, Jennifer, and Doug, as well as your larger family.
Please accept our deepest condolences for your loss. May you be comforted by the outpouring of love surrounding you.
Dear Sonia and all of Dennis’ family,
Carrie and I are so sorry for your loss. Our thoughts are with you during this challenging time.
My sincere, heartfelt condolences to Dennis’ family and friends, and especially to his wife, Sonia, my colleague of many years at the Schar School. May his memory be a blessing to you all.
Please accept this expression of deepest sympathy. Our thoughts are with you and your family.
I’m so very sorry for your loss. May his memory be a blessing.
The day is a little less bright and the night is a little darker.
Nos sincères condoléances…
Quand une âme s’est éteinte en ce bas monde, elle brille dans un autre fait de beauté et de paix.
Ces quelques lignes pour t’exprimer toute mon admiration et mon affection envers toi.
Cette admiration a été marquée par ta réussite et ton fabuleux parcours professionnel, mais pas seulement…
Celle-ci est bel et bien marquée par ce que tu représentes en tant qu’homme. Et c’est là où l’affection vient se mêler à l’admiration.
Tu es à mes yeux l’incarnation de la gentillesse, la sincérité, la loyauté et la sagesse d’esprit. Tu as su nous montrer à tous qu’on peut être simple et incroyablement bon, tout en étant un homme extraordinaire.
Et surtout, tu as su rendre ma soeur heureuse durant ces 17 dernières années, et l’entourer d’un amour et d’une affection perceptibles à des milliers de kilomètres.
Toutes mes pensées et celles de l’ensemble de la famille vont vers ma sœur Sonia, ses enfants Jennifer et Douglas, et ses petits-enfants dont nous avons affectueusement entendu parler.
Merci d’avoir été l’homme que tu as été.
Avec tout notre amour
It was an honor and pleasure to have known Dennis.
He contributed to my life with rich debates and countless fun anecdotes of his travels. He was also an incredible grill master.
My most sincere condolences to his devoted loving wife Sonia, to his children and grandchildren. Dennis will be sorely missed by us all.
Toute nos condoléances de la part de toute la famille
Inchallah ta place est Au paradis
Toute nos condoléances
De la part de toute la famille (Amel .Moncef . Amine et Myriam)
Que dieu te bénisse
Inchallah et que le paradis
Soit ta prochaine Demeure
This captures the many facets of Dennis’s work, his winning personality, and varied interests. His illness was bravely borne, and shared in lovingly by Sonia, Jennifer, and Doug. We have many happy memories of our time with him over the decades, and will miss the delight and fun he brought to our lives. As citizens, we are grateful for his years of service to our country in his pursuit of a safer nuclear world.
We send our condolences to his loving family and many friends.