The McGowan Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility was founded in 2012 under the Center's current director, Dr. Bernard G. Prusak. 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.

Among other activities, the McGowan Center hosts upwards of ten public events per year, including six annual lectures: the Labor Day Lecture, the Constitution Day Lecture, the Feast of Saint Francis Lecture, the Bessette Lecture on Medical Ethics, the Science and Humanities Lecture, and the Earth Day 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" and 2018 conference on "The Horizons of Business Education." Planning is under way for a fall 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; and Ben Railton, from Fitchburg State. In 2018, Beth Admiraal (King's College), Thomas Baldino (Wilkes University), and Michael Moreland (Villanova University) participated in a panel discussion on the limits of presidential power. In 2019, Thomas Mackaman (King's College) joined Drs. Admiraal and Moreland for a panel discussion on birthright citizenship. Dr. Ayesha Ray (King's College) joined Drs. Mackman and Moreland in 2021 for a discussion of 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, Executive Director of Investor Advocates for Social Justice; Tobias Winright, from Saint Louis University; and the painter Brian Whelan.

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; and M. Therese Lysaught, from Loyola University Chicago.

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; and poet and physician Brian Volck.

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, and James L. Heft, SM, from USC; the philosophers Meghan Sullivan and Robert Audi, from the University of Notre Dame, Aaron Cobb, from Auburn University, and Shelley Burrt, from the Camphill Foundation; Bishop Joseph Bambera of the Diocese of Scranton; infectious diseases specialist Alison Brodginski, from the Geisinger health system; 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.