Lucas Morel, a politics professor and a preeminent Abraham Lincoln scholar, has been named the first Class of 1960 Professor of Ethics at Washington and Lee University.
"I am extremely gratified and humbled by this appointment," said Morel, who joined the University’s Politics Department in 1999 and most recently served as the Lewis G. John Term Professor. "I am thankful to the Class of 1960 for continuing to think about W&L and what they think is most important about their W&L experience, which is the concept of honor. As the new professor of ethics, this is clearly an honor for me."
The professorship, which the Class of 1960 established at its 50th reunion, stems from the Institute for Honor, which the class inaugurated for its 40th reunion. As the holder of a term professorship, Morel will have the position for an initial three-year term.
"We are excited to begin the next phase in the life of the Institute for Honor with the appointment of Prof. Lucas Morel," said Ray Wooldridge '60. "He appears to be uniquely qualified with his knowledge of Lincoln and Lee and the era in which our Honor System came to life. All of us in our class feel that the Honor System and what it stands for were hallmarks of our W&L experience. We look forward to the future as Prof. Morel sets a high bar for the program and the professors to come after him."
Morel's teaching and scholarship explore American government, political philosophy, black American politics, Abraham Lincoln and Ralph Ellison. As the Class of 1960 Professor of Ethics, he will undertake projects exploring ethics, honor, integrity and character as they relate to W&L's Honor System and to the mission of the Institute for Honor.
"[I] hope that the work that I continue to do both in the classroom, and in terms of conferences and lectures that we'll be sponsoring on campus, will reflect well on the Class of 1960’s intention to make honor an abiding theme of what we do here," said Morel.
"I can't think of a better or more appropriate person than Lucas Morel to be appointed as the first Class of 1960 Professor of Ethics," said Lewis G. John '58, professor of politics emeritus. "Lucas has had a most distinguished career here. He has served as a faculty moderator for the Institute for Honor’s annual symposium, and he will work well with that program and its advisory board in devising events in keeping with its mission of the promotion of honor at Washington and Lee, as well as the examination of ethical issues and conduct throughout society."
"Not only does the professorship give the Institute for Honor a continuing presence on campus that it has never had before, but it does so through a person who enjoys high respect among faculty and students and who is committed both professionally and personally to the understanding and advancement of the concepts underlying the W&L Honor System," said Bob Feagin '60. "Interim Provost Bob Strong, with input from an advisory board that includes members of our class, has made a great choice in appointing Lucas Morel. We look forward to working with him as he leads us forward in fulfilling the mission of the institute."
"The appointment fulfills a major initiative established at a seminar facilitated by the Aspen Institute for the Institute for Honor in 2007," said Frank Surface '60, W&L’s rector from 1997 to 2003. "W&L graduates and their friends from other colleges and universities participated in discussions which focused generally on the concept of integrity and trust in public life and specifically on the impact of honor systems on group behavior. The establishment of an ethics professor to lead the Institute for Honor programs was the number-one priority recommended by the group."
Continued Surface, "The recent addition to the Advisory Board of younger alums and the sitting president of the Executive Committee assures that the institute will stay current in its mission to promote the understanding and practice of honesty as an indispensable element of society. Our class members and the seminar participants thank President Ken Ruscio, Interim Provost Bob Strong and Vice President for University Advancement Dennis Cross for their creative thinking and support in bringing to fruition this important milestone in the life of the institute. Prof. Morel is a great choice to be the first professor to hold this position, and we are confident that the institute programs will flourish under his leadership."
For more than a decade, the Institute for Honor has sponsored an annual symposium featuring such distinguished speakers as David McCullough, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian; Donald McCabe, a national expert on academic integrity; the late Richard Holbrooke, the two-time assistant secretary of state; and Bob Woodward, the journalist of Watergate fame. Rob Fure and the staff of Special Programs administer the symposium.
"Over the years, the institute has made possible creative opportunities for W&L alumni to return to campus for serious conversation and intellectual stimulation," said Strong, the William Lyne Professor of Politics, who just finished a stint as interim provost. "The institute has consistently challenged its guest speakers and alumni audiences, along with current students and faculty, to think about how issues of integrity and character influence our lives. The annual symposiums have raised profound questions about honesty in human affairs and about the relationship between principles and practice throughout our lives."
Morel holds a B.A. in government from Claremont McKenna College and an M.A. in politics and a Ph.D. in political science from the Claremont Graduate School. Before arriving at W&L, he taught at Azusa Pacific University, the University of Arkansas and John Brown University.
He is the author of "Lincoln’s Sacred Effort: Defining Religion’s Role in American Self-Government" (2000) and the editor of "Ralph Ellison and the Raft of Hope: A Political Companion to Invisible Man" (2004). He is working on two other books, “Lincoln, Race, and the Fragile American Republic” and 'The Political Thought of Ralph Ellison," and has an edited volume called "Lincoln for the Ages: Lessons for the 21st Century" under review. He has contributed chapters to several books, and articles and reviews to many journals.
Morel, who is head of the Politics Department, serves as a pre-law advisor to W&L undergraduates. He is the past president of the Abraham Lincoln Institute, a trustee of the Supreme Court Historical Society and a board member of the Abraham Lincoln Association.