Skip to main content

Reilly named director of Morrison Institute

portrait of Thom Reilly, director of ASU's Morrison Institute for Public Policy
April 01, 2014

Thom Reilly is the new director of the Morrison Institute for Public Policy, the state’s leading public policy think tank. Reilly brings broad experience in both the public and private sectors.

Reilly is currently a professor and director of the School of Social Work at San Diego State University. He also served as county manager and CEO of Clark County – Nevada’s most populated county, with 1.8 million people – and has experience in the private sector.

Reilly will officially start July 1 at Morrison Institute. He will also serve as a professor in the School of Public Affairs at Arizona State University.

“Thom brings experience, energy and imagination to this critical role,” said Jonathan Koppell, dean of the ASU College of Public Programs. “And he shares our commitment to taking on the vital issues that Arizona and the region will need to confront if we are to realize our state’s vast potential.”

Reilly takes over Morrison Institute leadership from Sue Clark-Johnson, former publisher of The Arizona Republic and former president of the Gannett Newspaper Division. Clark-Johnson will remain at ASU in a new assignment.

Koppell praised Clark-Johnson’s leadership, citing “her commitment to advancing sound public discourse addressing the challenges and opportunities for the state of Arizona.”

A research and community service unit of the ASU College of Public Programs, the nonpartisan Morrison Institute provides data, analysis and recommendations on key issues facing the state and southwestern United States. Morrison Institute was established in 1982.

Morrison Institute advisory board member Edmundo Hidalgo, president and CEO of Chicanos Por La Causa, points to Reilly’s diverse background and experience in the public sector.

“Morrison Institute has always been a resource through its studies, which allow us to accurately discuss issues of importance to our communities, such as education, demographic changes, aging communities and many others. Having someone who understands the importance of accurate information and its impact on public knowledge is extremely important,” said Hidalgo, who serves on the board's executive committee.

Reilly has been director of the SDSU School of Social Work since 2008. He previously served as the chief executive officer of Clark County, overseeing a $5.8 billion budget and 12,000 employees. He is also the founder of a management consulting firm and former vice president of social responsibility at Caesars Entertainment, Inc.

He is past chairman of the national Board of Directors for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

“I was immediately impressed that Thom brings to this position prior experience in academia government, private sector work and philanthropy,” said Richard Morrison, chairman of the advisory board for the institute that bears his family name. “His leadership should therefore relate well to all of those who have an interest in the Morrison Institute, whatever their vantage point.”

Reilly received his master’s and doctorate of public administration from the University of Southern California, his master's of social work from ASU and his bachelor of arts from Memphis State University.

“I feel my experience in both academe, as well as real world experiences in the public, private and nonprofit sectors make me uniquely qualified to lead the public policy research of the Morrison Institute,” Reilly said.

The ability to study a variety of issues important to Arizona, including the economy, the environment, transportation and quality of life issues played a role in Reilly’s decision to lead the Morrison Institute, which is home to Arizona Indicators, an online data resource center, and the Morrison Institute Latino Public Policy Center.

“The Morrison Institute for Public Policy is respected and well-known for its high quality, evidence-based and nonpartisan research, analysis and outreach. I am honored to be part of this impactful group of professionals,” he said.

Reilly seeks to expand Morrison Institute's independent research to focus on common challenges facing Arizona and the surrounding region: California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. The goal, he said, is to advance innovative, practical recommendations for public policy.