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Ethics Center History

The McGowan Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility was founded in 2012. It succeeds two earlier ethics centers at King's, the first founded in 1994 as a joint undertaking of the philosophy and theology departments, the second founded in 2005 to serve the College's business school. The Center's first director was Bernard Prusak, who served from fall 2012 through spring 2023.

Among other activities, the McGowan Center hosts upwards of ten public events per year, including seven annual lectures or symposia: the Labor Day Lecture, the Constitution Day Lecture, the Feast of St. Francis Lecture, the Bessette Lecture on Medical Ethics, the Scholarship at King's Lecture, the Science & Humanities Lecture, and the Earth Week Lecture and/or Symposium. The Center also co-hosts an annual Hesburgh Lecture with the Notre Dame Club of Hanover Township and regularly co-sponsors the King's Honors Program's annual Grimes Lecture.

Click on "Conferences" in the menu to learn about the Center's 2014 conference on "The Idea of a Catholic College," 2019 conference on "The Horizons of Business Education," and 2022 conference on "Health, Hope, and Despair."

Labor Day lecturers have included the theologian and writer Jonathan Malesic; economists Teresa Ghilarducci, from the New School for Social Research, and David Feldman, from the College of William and Mary; sociologist Patrisia Macias-Rojas, from the University of Illinois at Chicago; historian Allen Dieterich-Ward, from Shippensburg University; entrepreneur Kris Jones; journalist Ben Bradlee, Jr; and lawyer and AI scholar Frank Pasquale, from Brooklyn Law School.

Constitution Day lectures have been given by Gregory Bassham, from King's College (PA); Robert Vischer, from the University of St. Thomas (MN); Mary Ellen O'Connell, from the University of Notre Dame; Ben Railton, from Fitchburg State; and Michael Moreland, from Villanova University. Together with King's faculty members Beth Admiraal, Tom Mackaman, and Ayesha Ray, Dr. Moreland also participated in three panel discussions, on the limits of presidential power, on birthright citizenship, and on the electoral college.

Journalist Mollie Wilson O'Reilly, editor-at-large of Commonweal magazine, gave the inaugural Feast of Saint Francis Lecture, followed by Patrick Ryan, S.J., from Fordham University; Iia DeLio, O.S.F., from Villanova University; Nicholas Cafardi, from Duquesne University; Patricia Talone, formerly Vice President of Mission Services for the Catholic Health Association; Mary Beth Gallagher, formerly Executive Director of Investor Advocates for Social Justice; Tobias Winright, from Saint Louis University; and the painter Brian Whelan. In 2022, Elizabeth Shacklelford, from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and Andrea Bartoli, from Seton Hall University and the Sant’Egidio Foundation for Peace and Dialogue, joined several King's faculty members to discuss the prospects for peace in our time.

Bessette lecturers have been F. Daniel Davis, Chief Bioethics Officer for the Geisinger health system; Daniel Sulmasy, from Georgetown University; Kevin FitzGerald, S.J., from Creighton University; Kate Rossiter, from Wilfrid-Laurier University; Michael Gusmano, from the Hastings Center and Rutgers University; Joel Shuman, from King's College; Sarah Vittone, from Georgetown University; M. Therese Lysaught, from Loyola University Chicago; Susan M. Wolf, from the University of Minnesota; and Dena S. Davis, from Lehigh University.

The Center's Science and Humanities Lecture was inaugurated by Marvin Bolt, from the Corning Museum of Glass, followed by Mitchell Wayne, from the University of Notre Dame; Christiana Zenner, from Fordham University; Christopher Chabris, from the Geisinger health system; Wendy Roth, from the University of Pennsylvania; poet and physician Brian Volck; philosopher Carol Cleland, from the University of Colorado-Boulder; and the entomologist and ecologist Doug Tallamy, from the University of Delaware.

Other guests of note have included the biblical scholar Amy-Jill Levine, from Vanderbilt University; the theologians Gabriel Reynolds, from the University of Notre Dame,  James L. Heft, SM, from USC, and Mark Wallace, from Swarthmore College; the philosophers Meghan Sullivan and Robert Audi, from the University of Notre Dame, Aaron Cobb, from Auburn University, and Shelley Burrt, then from the Camphill Foundation; Bishop Joseph Bambera of the Diocese of Scranton; infectious diseases specialist Alison Brodginski, from the Geisinger health system; the political scientists David Campbell, from the University of Notre Dame, David Karpf, from George Washington University, and Jon Shields, from Claremont McKenna College; sociologist Ellis Jones, from the College of the Holy Cross; and economist Heather Boushey, founder and former president of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, now a member of President Biden's Council of Economic Advisors.