Education & ethics Maguire Ethics Center news Society & ethics

25 Years of the Maguire Ethics Center: A quarter-century of ethics education

Throughout 2021, in honor of the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility’s 25th Anniversary, we will be celebrating the wide variety of people and events that have played a major role in the Maguire Ethics Center’s history — our founders, volunteers from years past, former Public Service Fellows, influential donors and supporters, and more.

With every milestone comes reflection: a remembrance of the past, an honoring of the present, and a hope for the future. The Maguire Ethics Center’s 25 anniversary offers a wonderful opportunity to reflect upon its history and the important contributions it has made to the field of ethics education within SMU, the Dallas area, Texas, the United States, and the world.

The Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility is a university-wide center that supports student and faculty ethics-related education and activities, as well as outreach to community, private and public institutions. The center’s success is the culmination of years of planning by visionary members of the SMU faculty, then-Provost Ruth Morgan, President ad interim James Kirby, and President R. Gerald Turner, all of whom believe that in today’s hurried world it takes intentional reflection to devise ethical responses to society’s problems.

Our Founding

Left to right: Second Director of the Maguire Ethics Center Richard O. Mason, former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, Maguire Ethics Center founder Cary M. Maguire, and SMU President R. Gerald Turner in the Maguire Ethics Center office located in McFarlin Auditorium.

In the 1990s, the Board of Trustees and other leaders at SMU declared ethics to be one of its priorities. At an earlier defining moment in its history, the Master Plan of 1963, the University affirmed the formation of the citizen as one of its three educational goals. In keeping with its stated mission, SMU received an endowment of $2.5 million from then Board of Trustees member, Cary M. Maguire, to establish the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility on May 16, 1995. The Maguire Ethics Center was dedicated on February 23, 1996.

A Vision Statement drafted then by the Center’s first director, William F. May, wisely defined the purpose and the mission of the Maguire Ethics Center stating:

“Southern Methodist University believes that a university does not fully discharge its responsibilities to its students and the community at large if it imparts knowledge–and the power that knowledge yields–without posing questions about its responsible uses.

“The Center will not attempt simply to strengthen teaching and research in ethics in a particular professional school. It will also explore the professions in the setting of other professions and disciplines within the University and in the still broader setting of the society and its concerns for the common good. In discharging this broader mission, the Center will invite a variety of conversation partners to the table: professional, disciplinary, and non-academic.”

In subsequent years, the Ethics Center engaged a wild range of expertise to develop a more concise mission statement:

“The Maguire Ethics Center seeks to recognize, honor, and model ethical behavior; provide moral reflection on the contemporary issues; and celebrate ethics that reflect SMU’s fundamental goals.”

Achievements in Ethics

The Center’s accomplishments have multiplied exponentially since its inception, but so have the complexities of modern life. As the need for leaders who can make sound moral judgments in public and professional life increases, the wisdom of establishing a Center with the mission of promoting ethics teaching and research is more apparent today than ever.

Student Engagement
2016 Maguire Public Service Fellow and former Maguire Ethics Center student staffer Claire Wilt presenting her Public Service Fellowship Project at SMU’s Engaged Learning research Symposium.
2018 Public Service Fellow Averie Bishop in the Philippines as a part of her Public Service Fellowship project which included developing curriculum and teaching self-efficacy classes at Banga High School in the Philippines.

Maguire Public Service Fellows: The Maguire Center, with financial assistance from the Irby Family Foundation, awards summer fellowships to SMU students who wish to devote time to public service or ethics research. Over the past 20 years, we have awarded summer fellowship stipends totaling over $400,000 to nearly 200 SMU students for public service and research in ethics. We have supported volunteers in more than 150 agencies across 18 states, 25 countries, and 5 continents.

Maguire Public Service Fellows have volunteered in a vast number of diverse internship placements. Through such opportunities, students gain concrete information about others’ needs, as well as differing perspectives on how to resolve them. Drawing on their university education and personal talent, Fellows hone their skills and gain both humility and self-confidence to become bold, curious and creative leaders. The goal of the Fellowship is to enable students to engage in public service where financial circumstances might not otherwise allow.

Ethics Essay Prize: In celebration of our 25th anniversary, SMU’s Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility hosted its first Ethics Essay Prize – an essay competition open to students enrolled at SMU. The competition intends to encourage the development of ethical discernment, imagination, and thoughtful reflection among students. It is also designed to challenge students to consider the role of ethics in their lives. Further, the contest provides the Maguire Ethics Center with valuable insights into topics of importance to students. Winners of the contest are awarded with cash prizes.

Common Reading: The Common Reading Program was an established start-of-school tradition at SMU starting in 2004 and discontinuing in 2018. The incoming class received the book during the summer at AARO and reads it before arriving for the start of the fall semester. First-year writing courses use the book as part of the curriculum for the fall semester.

The Maguire Ethics Center team along with some friends from SMU Libraries celebrating Constitution Day by registering folks to vote in the 2020 Presidential Election.

SMU Votes: The Maguire Center was proud to host SMU Votes!, a campus-wide voter registration drive supported by various organizations on campus in an effort to register as many SMU students to vote as possible. In 2018, students visited Fondren Library on National Voter Registration Day (September 25) for information on how to register, receive a voter registration form, and get details on the voting process in advance of the fall’s important election dates. This event was able to register over 200 SMU students to vote. The Ethics Center hosted a COVID-Compliant voter registration drive for the 2020 presidential election where it was able to register more than 100 SMU students.

The Maguire Undergraduate Scholars for Ethics: Along with the Public Service Internships, the center also supported MUSE or The Maguire Undergraduate Scholars for Ethics. MUSE was a select group of four to seven undergraduate students whose purpose was to design programs addressing ethical and moral issues pertinent to the SMU community. Students addressed issues such as cocaine use on campus, the use of Adderall, Ritalin, and other drugs as study aids for students, the changing cultural perceptions of sex, the civic duty of voting, and food deserts. The Design Team focused on these issues through initiatives such as designing programs for wellness classes, making campus presentations, holding a university-wide mock presidential election and planning and leading conferences for the university community. MUSE strived to present all sides of moral and ethical dilemmas. Rather than promoting a particular perspective, the group sought to educate members of the SMU community in a clear and unbiased way so that others can make their own informed decisions.

9/11 Remembered: On September 11, 2010, America observed the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks that touched all our lives in many ways. SMU joined the commemoration in several ways, with memorials to those who lost their lives, tributes to those who responded, and lectures and discussions that explore the changes that began in 2001. In an effort to curate a more complete story of the memories of 9/11, the Maguire Center invited the SMU community—students, alums, staff, and faculty—to contribute their memories and reflections to a blog site and read what others had to say.

Teaching and Research

Maguire Teaching Fellowship: The Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility seeks to encourage teaching in the area of ethics. The field of ethics is both a traditional subdivision of philosophy and religious studies but is also an important part of a broad range of disciplines and professions.

Every year, the Maguire Ethics Center honors faculty members who are developing a course, a module, or other curricular unit in ethics. We also encourage faculty to develop and include ethics content throughout an existing course. The center honors one or more such persons per year with a generous stipend. In addition to the stipend, the center provides the Maguire Teaching Fellow/s with opportunities at the beginning and the end of the venture to discuss the curriculum proposal with interested colleagues.

Maguire Public Scholars: The Maguire Ethics Center showcases the University’s most exciting scholars through its Public Scholar Lecture Series.  Ethical implications are infused in every field of study. This award, instituted in 1997, acknowledges the importance of ethics in the life of the university. Many of the Public Scholar lectures have been published (in slightly revised form) as Occasional Papers of the Center.

The Maguire Ethics Center Faculty Incentive Grant: To help fulfill SMU’s commitment to ethics education, the Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility created the Maguire Ethics Center Faculty Incentive Grant Program. The goals of this program are to enhance existing ethics courses, develop new ethics courses, develop a research ethics seminar for graduate students, and increase faculty publications and research related to the field of ethics. To date, 16 new ethics courses have been created, seven ethics courses have been revised and enhanced, and 11 research publications have been funded through the Faculty Incentive Grant Program, totaling over $230,000 of faculty funding over the last three years.

Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, speaking at the 2015 Delta Gamma Lecturer in Values and Ethics.

Delta Gamma Lectureship in Values and Ethics: The Maguire Ethics Center sponsors the Delta Gamma Lectureship in values and ethics. The event brings nationally known speakers to SMU as a service to the University and Dallas community. This unique program was established to encourage the discussion of values and ethics in an open forum, and personal and professional excellence through leadership and community involvement.

Ethics in the Community
The 2018 J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award is presented to Dr. Bobby B. Lyle by the SMU Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility, Thursday, March 29, 2018, at Moody Coliseum on the SMU campus in Dallas.

J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award: Since 1997, the J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award luncheon has served as the Center’s sole fundraising event, supporting our dynamic programs that serve the SMU faculty, staff, and student body as well as our community at-large. The support from this event directly funds the Center’s annual operations and ensures its continued success.

The J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award is named in honor of the public-spirited former mayor of Dallas.  It is given to individuals who epitomize the spirit of moral leadership and public virtue.  The founders of our nation foresaw that the ideal of liberty alone would not sustain our country unless accompanied by the concept of “public virtue,” a sacrifice of self and resources for the public good.  The Maguire Center is proud to present this award to people whose careers should be recognized, honored, and modeled.

Ethics and Compliance Certificate Program: Organizational leaders face the constant challenge of making ethical choices in difficult times. This certificate in Corporate Ethics & Compliance delivers insights into how organizations respond—and should respond—to today’s ethical challenges. Attendees strengthen their professional credentials and give them an immediate edge as they prepare for higher levels of responsibility. The program is a collaboration within Southern Methodist University among the Cox School of Business, the Robert B. Rowling Center for Business Law & Leadership at the Dedman School of Law, and the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility.

Conference of the Professions: The annual Conference of the Professions is sponsored by the SMU Dedman School of Law, the Dallas County Medical Society, the Dallas Bar Association, the SMU Perkins School of Theology, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and, since 1995, SMU’s Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility. Each year an ethical issue of common interest is identified. A noted expert in the field presents a keynote address, and a distinguished panel of local professionals discusses a related case that poses practical issues for law, medicine, the clergy, and other professions.

Maguire Ethics Center Director Dr. Rita Kirk moderating a panel discussion at the 26th Annual Conference of the Professions amongst panel members Dan McCoy, Dusty Craig, and John Browning.
Keynote speaker Dan Ariely, Ph.D speaking at the 27th Annual Conference of the Professions.







Veterans Day Celebration: This tribute is designed to bring together generations of service men and women, and to celebrate the connectedness of those groups within the SMU community. At the event, university leadership and the SMU Student Veterans organization recognize the contributions and achievements of our university service members.

Along with its legacy of programs developed, courses taught, papers written, and lectures delivered, the Maguire Ethics Center’s most enduring impact may be its commitment to empowering students, faculty, staff, and community members to cultivate their character, ethically assess situations, and prepare them for an ever-hostile world. Our founder Cary M. Maguire once said, “Ethics permeates the entire fabric. Initially you may think about ethics as separate, major issues, but I have learned that ethics permeates everything in our lives.” It is with this truth in mind that the Maguire Ethics Center continues to support student and faculty ethics-related education and activities, as well as outreach to community, private and public institutions. The last 25 years have given us plenty of reasons to celebrate, and together, we will continue supporting ethics-related education for another quarter century.

Looking for more ways to celebrate with us? Register to attend the 2021 J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award virtual ceremony on Wednesday, April 14, 2021 as we honor our founder Cary M. Maguire. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *