Elizabeth Esther Kiss '83
Read her remarks from the Keynote Address. (pdf)
Elizabeth Esther Kiss came to Davidson in 1979 from Alexandria, Virginia. In her application for admission, she said, “The world is a magnificent place, and life is an extraordinary gift.” We recognize Elizabeth today because her extraordinary gifts and talents have added significantly to the magnificence of our world.
At Davidson, Elizabeth was a Stuart Scholar, editor of the Davidsonian, founding member of Davidson’s chapter of Amnesty International, inductee into Phi Beta Kappa and Omicron Delta Kappa, and a member of ATO eating house. A philosophy major, Elizabeth graduated magna cum laude and was the first Davidson woman to be named a Rhodes Scholar.
Elizabeth earned her Bachelor of Philosophy from Oxford University in 1985 and a Doctorate in Philosophy from Oxford University in 1990. In 1989 she married Jeff Holzgrefe, a native Australian who received his education at Monash University in Melbourne and Balliol College, Oxford University. With an academic focus on ethics and international relations, Jeff has taught at Duke, Princeton, and St. Andrew's Universities, and now teaches in the Department of Political Science and the Center for Ethics at Emory University.
After receiving her doctorate, Elizabeth taught at Randolph-Macon College and Deep Springs College, before joining the faculty at Princeton University for eight years. In 1996, Elizabeth became the founding director of the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University, where she was also associate professor of the Practice of Political Science and Philosophy and an affiliate faculty member in the Women’s Studies Program. Elizabeth became the eighth president of Agnes Scott College on August 1, 2006, and serves in that capacity today.
Specializing in moral and political philosophy, President Kiss has published on moral judgment and education, human rights, ethnic conflict and nationalism, and feminist theory and justice in the aftermath of human rights violations. She has spoken about ethics, moral education, and academic integrity to audiences around the country and has developed and led interactive ethics workshops for an array of groups, including middle-school students, undergraduates, university staff, community leaders, business people, and elected officials.
Somehow, Elizabeth has still found time to serve alma mater in a variety of ways. She was vice chair of the Davidson Board of Trustees, chair of its Academic and Educational Policy Committee, and a member of its Nominating Committee. Elizabeth has also served as Annual Fund class agent, member of the Terry Scholarship Board of Advisers, member of the selection committees for Rhodes, Truman, and Stuart Scholarships, and a contributor to the Davidson book, Circling the Fountain. She has spoken at Davidson and on behalf of Davidson on numerous occasions, always displaying a sparkling intellect, wit, charisma, and keen understanding of the importance of a liberal arts education in a changing world.
For your remarkable academic and administrative career; for your devoted service to Davidson College; for your integration of ethical practices into your life as a teacher and a leader; for your graceful enrichment of institutions and individuals fortunate to claim you as their own; and for your remarkable articulation of all we hold most dear in alma mater, we honor you, Elizabeth Esther Kiss, Class of 1983, with the Distinguished Alumna Award on the occasion of your 25th Reunion, this 26th day of April, 2008.