Founding and Evolution

Dr. James Gustafson

Dr. James Gustafson, Woodruff Professor of Ethics

The Ethics Center was begun during the last years of the Laney administration by faculty initiative and the encouragement of President Laney and then-Provost Billy Frye. Conversations in 1990 among 27 faculty members from across Emory College of Arts and Sciences and the professional schools were stimulated in part by the decade of ethics seminars led by Dr. James Gustafson as visiting Woodruff Professor of Ethics. These conversations led to the proposal for the development of an ethics center to serve the university.

Founding faculty recognized that Emory not only had colleges on two campuses, six strong professional schools, and a graduate school, but that it also included a major research hospital, growing work in biological and biomedical research, and the Yerkes National Primate Center. Moreover, Emory was a close neighbor to the Centers for Disease Control and the American Cancer Society. With the establishment of the Rollins School of Public Health in the late 1980s, Emory—and Clifton Road—had become a place where ethical issues, national and international in scope, called out to be addressed. Emory’s momentum toward becoming a university of the first rank called for interdisciplinary and interprofessional growth in the ethics of research.

With support from the central budget of the university, an ethics center formed, led by cell biologist Dr. Robert DeHaan, who served as director on a half-time basis from 1990 to 1993. Kathleen Kinlaw—an MDiv graduate of Candler School of Theology, who had done advanced work in ethics at the National Institutes of Health and a Perinatal Ethics Fellowship at Grady Hospital and Emory School of Medicine—was appointed associate director in 1990.

Dr. Robert DeHaan

Dr. Robert DeHaan, director on a half time basis from 1990-1993

By 1993, the center’s activities, which took place largely in the medical school, augmented by an interdisciplinary Faculty Ethics Seminar each spring, had grown to the point where the time was right to search for a full-time director of the center. The university committed support for this growth, and grants from the Cousins Foundation enabled work to begin in business ethics.  After a national search Dr. James W. Fowler was selected to become the first full-time director of the center in early 1994.  Officially he devoted 80 percent of his effort to the center, while continuing to teach in the Graduate Division of Religion and at Candler School of Theology.

Jim Fowler

Dr. James W. Fowler, Director from 1994-2005

University support—augmented by grants, contracts, and gifts—gradually expanded to enable the center to hire two part-time associates, Andrew Fleming and Steve Olson. They led in building courses about ethics in business and law, and they initiated a program on ethics and vocation in Emory College. Each year since 1992, the Ethics Center has convened, led, and provided stipends for a two-week Faculty Ethics Seminar. Drawing participants from all sectors of the university, an average of 15 faculty per year have participated, creating an ever-growing network—some 180-strong—of ethically competent and involved faculty leaders across the university.

In addition to serving the university, in 1992 the center initiated and has led in the development of the Health Care Ethics Consortium (HEC). Housed in the center, and led by the associate director, Kathleen Kinlaw, HEC has grown to a statewide membership of more than 70 health care systems, hospitals, hospice programs, and nursing homes. Among the strongest of such organizations in the United States, HEC conducts research and holds four conferences and workshops annually to support institutional ethics among its members. It has engaged in sponsored research on Ethics Near the End of Life, relating both to aging patients and to neonates and children. Since its inception HEC has sponsored some 35 conferences, statewide meetings, workshops, and lectures, with 75 to 125 participants annually.

Early in 1995, the center moved from the third floor of Candler Library to a suite of 2,000 square feet in the then “Dental Building”—now the 1462 Clifton Road building. Upon his return from being ambassador to Korea, the center for five years provided an office to former Emory president Dr. James T. Laney, who was invited to be a senior fellow.

Building Photo

In 1999, the center received a $2 million endowment to establish the D. Abbott Turner Program in Ethics and Servant Leadership (EASL). Building on earlier work with undergraduates on vocation and ethics, for four years EASL has led academic-year mentoring and programming for select students, developed a summer internship program in ethics and servant leadership, and initiated a minor in ethics for undergraduates.

2008 marked a year of new beginnings and explosive growth, with the installation of Dr. Paul Root Wolpe as the center's new director and the move to our beautiful new west campus location at 1531 Dickey Drive, near the Quadrangle.

Center for Ethics
1531 Dickey Drive
Atlanta, GA 30322