WMU Ethics Center marks 30th year with conference, salute to founder

Contact: Mark Schwerin
Bioethics conference flier.

The conference is free, but registration is required for the Thursday night reception and dinner.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—The Center for the Study of Ethics in Society at Western Michigan University is celebrating three decades in existence by staging a new bioethics conference and a salute to one of its founders.

A tribute to Dr. Michael Pritchard, WMU professor of philosophy, will be held as part of the two-day conference Thursday and Friday, March 17-18. The theme for the conference, "Bioethics: Preparing for the Unknown," highlights the uncertainty and intention factors in bioethics.

'the course of a career'

Festivities paying homage to Pritchard start with a reception at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the Atrium Lobby of the Fetzer Center with a dinner following at 6:30 p.m. in Room 1045. The program will include a talk by Pritchard, titled "The Course of a Career," reflecting on his tenure as a philosopher at WMU and in particular his role as founding director of the center. WMU faculty and administrators who played a crucial role in the center's early years also will give brief remarks before the premiere of a video looking at the center's history and accomplishments over its first 30 years.

The conference, which is free and open to the public, begins at 9 a.m. Thursday, March 17, and ends at 3:15 p.m. Friday, March 18. All sessions and meals take place at the Fetzer Center.

The cost for the reception and Thursday dinner is $45. Those who wish to attend must register for the conference, which is being offered for free, and pay for their meal tickets with a credit card by Thursday, March 10, on the conference page at wmich.edu/ethics/events. Meal tickets will be available for pickup at the registration desk at the conference in the Atrium Lobby of the Fetzer Center.

Pritchard, who is retiring after some five decades of service to the University, has been instrumental in carrying out the center's mission of encouraging and supporting research, teaching and service to the University and community in areas of applied and professional ethics.

"Mike has won friends for ethics all over the world by being a gifted philosopher who happens to think that ethics is not just for philosophers," says Dr. Sandra Borden, WMU professor of communication and center co-director.

esteemed keynote speakers

The conference also packs the punch of esteemed keynote speakers, including former WMU professor Dr. Insoo Hyun, an authority on cloning and other bioethical issues and now associate professor of bioethics and philosophy at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, and Dr. Richard Sharp, director of the Biomedical Ethics Program at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Sharp earned his bachelor's degrees in philosophy from WMU.

"The success of our keynote speakers illustrates how ethics at WMU has had influence both locally and beyond our campus" Borden says. "We are so pleased they are returning to WMU to mark this occasion with us."

Bioethics has been a major focus of the Ethics Center since it was founded in August 1985 by Pritchard and other WMU faculty across the curriculum, who gathered to share their common interest in ethics research and instruction.

The center's efforts in bioethics have been led by Dr. Shirley Bach, center associate director and professor emerita of philosophy. Bach has worked closely with the local medical community for many years, developing ethics programming and providing expert consultation. She supported the work of the Ethics Center in sponsoring biomedical ethics speakers and programs and established the Shirley and Michael K. Bach Quasi Endowment for the Ethics Center, which is providing support for the conference.

More recently, the center has helped sponsor the interdisciplinary WMU Medical Humanities Workgroup, co-founded by advisory board member Dr. Fritz Allhoff, WMU associate professor of philosophy, and former staff member David Charlton, a philosophy instructor. The workgroup explores ethics and other humanistic dimensions of medicine through an annual conference and other activities. Allhoff, Charlton and others connected to the center also helped develop curricular content for the successful accreditation application of the WMU Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine.

"We firmly believe that ethics is an important feature of everyday life and that everyone can engage meaningfully with important ethical questions," Borden says. "We also think it's important for these conversations to cross boundaries: boundaries between disciplines, between academics and non-academics, between faculty and students."

A number of the talks sponsored by the center have been disseminated through an in-house publication series; many of these are available online at wmich.edu/ethics/publications/papers.

For conference updates and more information about the Ethics Center visit wmich.edu/ethics.

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