Ethicist to discuss public service role of professionals at WFU

By Jacob McConnico
March 16, 2005

William F. May, a nationally-renowned ethicist and a former member of President George W. Bush's Council on Bioethics, will participate in two public events involving faculty and students from Wake Forest University and Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center March 22-23. Both events are free and open to the public.

William F. May

William F. May

May, an emeritus professor of ethics at Southern Methodist University in Texas and a Presbyterian minister, will deliver the keynote address "The Public Obligation of the Professional" at 7 p.m. March 22 in the university's Wait Chapel. The lecture will explore the professions – medicine, law, politics, engineering, media, ministry, business, academia – as they struggle with their double identity as a means to a livelihood and as a common calling in the spirit of public service.

In addition, May will participate in a 4 p.m. panel discussion on March 23 in Benson University Center, Room 401. The discussion will focus on topics raised during May's keynote address and includes faculty participants from the undergraduate college, the Divinity School, the law school, the medical school and the Babcock Graduate School of Management.

Charles Kimball, professor of religion at Wake Forest, helped organize May's visit. He said the public events, combined with the time May plans to spend talking to students in various classes should help the entire community look at the ways that the various professions and vocational pursuits connect to Pro Humanitate (for humanity), the university's motto.

"In his most recent book, (May) argues persuasively that at the heart of the major professions there is a responsibility and an expectation built in that the person will be serving the public good," Kimball said. "So, what we claim as the motto of the university is not simply a nice idea, but it is a responsibility of professional people."

May is a Fellow of the Institute for Practical Ethics and Public Life at the University of Virginia and is founding director of the Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility at Southern Methodist University. He is a former president of the American Academy of Religion, and he served as a member of the Working Group on Ethical Foundations for President Clinton's Task Force on National Health Care Reform in 1993. He served on President Bush's Council on Bioethics from 2002 to 2004 and has been quoted widely on the questions surrounding stem-cell research.

He is the author of several books, including "The Patient's Ordeal," "The Physician's Covenant: Images of the Healer in Medical Ethics," "Testing the Medical Covenant: Active Euthanasia and Health Care Reform" and "Beleaguered Rulers: The Public Obligation of the Professional."

May's visit to Wake Forest is sponsored by The Pro Humanitate Center, a Project of the Lilly Endowment; the university's Department of Religion; and Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

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