Director, Vann Center for Ethics
A Center That Can Hold
When David Perry arrived at Davidson in summer 2009 as inaugural director of the Vann Center for Ethics, he was struck by the strong collaborative spirit of Davidson faculty and staff and impressed by the student commitment to academic integrity and community service. Building on the college's ethical culture, Perry sees the Vann Center as a catalyst for interdisciplinary inquiry on moral issues and challenges, fostering careful research, reflection and dialogue.
Growing up in Tacoma, Wash., Perry's personal "moral compass" was rooted in his mom's compassion and his dad's sense of fairness. A religion major in college, he focused in graduate school on the history of moral and political philosophy and theology. His teaching career has included courses in medical ethics, business ethics, and ethics in warfare.
After six years as professor of ethics at the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania, and as author of a 2009 book, Partly Cloudy: Ethics in War, Espionage, Covert Action, and Interrogation, he was primed to teach "Ethics and Warfare" at Davidson as a newly appointed professor of applied ethics. (Click here and scroll down to Perry's talk "Ethics and War in Comparative Religious Perspective," or a panel discussion, "The Davidson Tradition of Honor and Integrity.") Guest speakers in his campus classes have included English professor Cynthia Lewis on Shakespeare's Henry V, an Army colonel on contemporary laws of war, and an expert in the Islamic tradition.
A Dream Job
Now settled in his new home near campus with canine companions Bud and Curly, Perry happily finds his plate full, recruiting and hosting renowned speakers on a broad range of ethical issues. He enjoys brainstorming and deliberating with students, faculty, staff, alumni, and members of the local community. A dream job, he says, more fascinating than anything he imagined back in graduate school, when it dawned on him that he would never get bored reading, writing and teaching about ethics. "I'm very grateful to Jim and Lee Vann and everyone at the college who made it possible to establish the Vann Center for Ethics. And I couldn't do what I do here without the supremely competent work of our program assistant, Carrie Mahoney."