Dedicated to practical dialogue between ethicists and community leaders about things that matter.

The Husson Symposium on Ethics and the Sacred is an annual Spring event dedicated to practical dialogue between ethicists, business leaders, and persons of faith. Each year it is focused on a different topic. It began in 2008 on the topic of healthcare and religion: "Healing and Curing in Downeast Maine."

2014 Symposium

"Is It Still Adultery If The Spouse Has Alzheimer’s? Rethinking Fidelity and Relational Integrity"

Presenter: Marvin M. Ellison, Ph.D.

Marvin M. Ellison is an ethicist and author whose most recent book is titled Making Love Just: Sexual Ethics for Perplexing Times (Fortress Press, 2012).

A hard ethical line has traditionally been drawn between monogamy and non-monogamy. Ethically sound marriages are marked by monogamy, sexual exclusivity, and permanence. Because of the widespread cultural practice of divorce and remarriage, the ideal of lifelong intimate partnership remains, but many people practice what may be called serial monogamy. It is not unusual for people over the course of a lifetime to have two or more marital partners although, granted, only one at a time. Even with this cultural change, fidelity as sexual exclusivity is a settled expectation, or is it?

What does fidelity mean, and how do we maintain relational integrity in our intimate connections?

2013 Symposium

"A Creative Look at Academic Integrity"

Speaker: Jeffrey St. John, Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching, UMO: "Three Bad Arguments for Academic Integrity"

Speaker: Nico Jenkins, Husson Lecturer in Philosophy: The Irresponsible Act: Thinking Beyond the Public Rubric"

2012 Symposium

A photograph of Daniel Wueste, Ph.D.

"Trust Me, I'm A Professional"

The Conditions and Implications of Trust and the Role of the Professional

Speaker: Daniel E. Wueste, Ph.D.
Director of the Rutland Institute for Ethics at Clemson University, widely published author and specialist in legal philosophy and professional ethics.

This session will be of interest to all working professionals for whom client trust is critical.

2011 Symposium

When Disabilities Get Genetic Labels

A Winning or Losing Proposition for Individuals and Society?

The widely heralded human genome project provides a new lens through which humans now can be viewed as a sum of their genetic makeup. This in turn has led to a rush to identify genes that do --or may-- provide powerful knowledge and insights about our diversity. One result is a slow but persistent trend to identify as "a genetic condition" common symptoms and conditions formally labeled as disabilities. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this shift in perspective, social perceptions and policies? In this lecture, Ruth Purtilo addresses ethical and policy challenges posed by this shift and invites the audience to participate in assessing means by which our common humanity can be well served in the midst of this changing landscape.

Speaker: Dr. Ruth Purtilo, Harvard University Ethicist and Husson University Trustee

Ruth Purtilo, PhD, a member of the Husson Board of Trustees, is this this year's featured speaker. As a result of human dilemmas she encountered as a practicing health professional in her younger years she entered Harvard University to become trained in philosophic and religious traditions of ethical inquiry.

Dr. Purtilo's 25 years of ethics teaching, consultation and workshops in professional, organizational and business ethics in the US and more than 28 countries have earned her a reputation as a respected ethics leader distinguished by a focus on enlivened relationships with family, workplace peers and clients, institutions and the natural world. Common themes are explorations into the dynamics of care and strategies supporting values-based moral agency, moral courage, and the prevention of moral distress. For this and her work in human rights for socially marginalized groups locally and globally she has received numerous acknowledgments among them four honorary doctorates, the Harvard Divinity School Distinguished Alumni Award and the Nellie Westerman Prize from the American Federation of Clinical Research for her 1983 article predicting serious ethical dilemmas of a new killer disease(AIDS).

Dr Purtilo has held endowed professorships at the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions with a lectureship at Harvard Medical School and at Creighton University, Omaha, as well as endowed visiting professorships at Yale University's Institution for Social and Policy Studies and the University of Vermont, Burlington. She has lived and worked in Swaziland Africa, Colombia, South America and Stockholm, Sweden as well as in several cities in the US. (She is author of six ethics books and dozens of articles including three ethics textbooks for health care professionals, and co-edited volumes on moral agency for educators and basic ethical foundations of care giving in Alzheimer Disease.)

In addition to her position as a Husson trustee she serves on the Harvard Divinity School Leadership Council, Cambridge, MA and as chair of trustees of the Bleddfa Centre for the Creative Spirit, Bleddfa, Wales.

 2010 Symposium
Two Myths, One Special Night

The Myth of Choice

Our love affair with choosing everything...and the reasons why your choices are less free than you think.

Special Guest: Kent Greenfield    

Kent Greenfield is Professor of Law and Law Fund Research Scholar at Boston College Law School, where he teaches and writes in the areas of business law, constitutional law, legal theory, and economic analysis of law. He is the Chair-Elect of the Section on Business Associations of the American Association of Law Schools. He is also the author of the book The Failure of Corporate Law, published by University of Chicago Press. The book has been called "simply the best and most well-reasoned progressive critique of corporate law yet written." Greenfield also has had journal articles published in the Yale Law Journal, the Virginia Law Review, the Boston College Law Review, the George Washington Law Review, and the Tulane Law Review, among others. His articles are widely cited, and he has been called "the leading figure" and "the most creative thinker" in the progressive, stakeholder school of corporate law scholarship. Greenfield has presented papers or lectured in 30 states, 69 institutions, and 7 countries (including Harvard, Yale, Brown, Stanford, the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, and the London School of Economics).    

The Myth of Morality

Why you think you are a better person than you really are...and your religion probably isn't helping.

Presenter: Cliff Guthrie

Cliff Guthrie, Circle Professor of Religion and Humanities at Husson University, received his B.S. in Political Science and Religion from Duke University and his M.Div. with Honors from Candler School of Theology from Emory University.

Both while a graduate student and after receiving his M.Div., he served as a pastor in churches in Kentucky and Georgia. Cliff then went on to round out his academic studies by receiving a Ph.D. in Religion from the Department of Theological Studies at Emory University. He began his professional career in academics as an adjunct faculty member at the Candler School of Theology, Emory University. Since then, his journey has involved posts such as Adjunct Faculty, Drew University; Assistant Professor, Bangor Theological Seminary; Visiting Scholar, Columbia University; Associate Professor, Bangor Theological Seminary; and Visiting Scholar, Cambridge University.    

Click here for directions to the Center for Family Business.

2009 Symposium

Animal Rights and Animal Wrongs

Religious, Ethical, and Economic Perspectives on the Humane Treatment of Other Animals

The utilitarian ethicist Peter Singer notes that, "The use and abuse of animals raised for food far exceeds, in sheer numbers of animals affected, any other kind of mistreatment." The passage of California's Proposition 2 regulating animal confinement in intensive farming is the latest of a series of initiatives in various states to improve food animal conditions. Viral videos spread images of sick cattle being prodded and dragged to the slaughterhouse. With increasing demand for natural, cage-free, and humane animal products, the public conscience seems to have been pricked on these issues.

Will Maine see a similar legislative effort to California's Proposition 2? Should it? How should people of faith respond when it seems like jobs, food prices, and animal welfare compete for our ethical attention? With the economy in deep recession, people unable to afford groceries, dairy and chicken farms struggling to stay afloat, is this a good time to worry about animal rights? How do we provide good and affordable food for an increasingly urban population so far removed from its food sources? How does our use of farm animals relate to our other humane concerns: habitat destruction and extinction, animal research, pet treatment? Join us for a day of practical reflection as we engage leaders in the faith community, animal welfare experts, farmers, food suppliers, and ethicists.

Speakers for the event will include

  • Hugh Curran, Peace and Reconciliation Program, University of Maine, Buddhist practitioner and teacher
  • Dr. Clifton F. Guthrie, Circle Professor of Religion and Humanities, Husson University
  • Donald E. Hoenig, VMD, State Veterinarian and Director of the Division of Animal Health and Industry of the Maine Department of Agriculture
  • Rabbi Darah Lerner: Rabbi of Congregation Beth El, "Neo-Kosher? New issues between Jews and Food."
  • Katie Lisnik, Maine State Director for the Humane Society of the United States. "Animal Welfare: Changing the way we impact animals, the environment and ourselves."
  • Diane Schivera, Organic Livestock Specialist, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, MOFGA
  • Nancy Smith, Monmouth dairy farmer, representative to the Maine Legislature and a member of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee in the Legislature.

Plus: A 25-minute film produced by The Humane Society of the United States: "Eating Mercifully."

For more information

Name Phone and Email Address
Cliff Guthrie
Associate Professor, School of Science and Humanities
(207) 941-7760
114 Meeting House
School of Science and Humanities
Husson University
1 College Circle
Bangor, ME 04401