Western’s Gordon Mercer wins state public service award

CULLOWHEE – Gordon Mercer, director of the Western Carolina University Public Policy Institute and associate dean of research and graduate studies, is the recipient of the North Carolina Political Science Association’s Distinguished Public Service Award for 2005.

Gordon Mercer

Gordon Mercer

A resident of Franklin, Mercer received the award Saturday, March 19, as part of the association’s annual conference, held at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

Past recipients of the award include Merle Black, professor of political science at Emory University and noted expert on Southern politics; Elaine Marshall, N.C. secretary of state; and the late Liston B. Ramsey, former speaker of the N.C. House of Representatives.

The association presented the award to Mercer in recognition of his leadership role in founding Western’s Public Policy Institute in 1998. The Public Policy Institute studies issues of importance to Western North Carolina and beyond and develops policy options to address those issues.

Since its founding, the PPI has held annual summits on topics such as domestic terrorism, school violence, citizenship, cultural and heritage tourism, entrepreneurship and economic development. The institute also sponsors an annual youth assembly at which about 200 high school students from across the region gather to propose legislation on matters of interest to young people.

Mercer is the author of numerous policy reports and refereed journal articles in the field of public policy, and has held positions in the area of public policy analysis at the U. S. Department of Education and National Institute of Education in Washington. He served as head of the political science department at Western from 1980 until 1992, and later directed the Master of Public Affairs Program before becoming director of the Public Policy Institute in the spring of 1999.

Mercer has previously served as president of the North Carolina Political Science Association and currently serves as first vice president of Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society. He was awarded the Western Carolina University Paul A. Reid Distinguished Service Award in 1998 for his work in the public service area. He also has been elected and served four terms in the Western Faculty Senate and two terms in the University of North Carolina System Faculty Assembly.

He previously served on the faculties at Barton College, University of Richmond and University of Mississippi. Mercer received his bachelor’s degree at Wake Forest University, master’s degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and doctorate at the University of Florida with specialization in political science, public administration and sociology.

Established in 1971, the North Carolina Political Science Association is made up of political scientists from more than 50 colleges and universities in North Carolina, along with legislators and governmental officials.