University of Notre Dame to establish Jenkins Center for Virtue Ethics

Author: Kate Garry and Laura Moran Walton

The Golden Dome and statue of Mary with a flowering tree in the foreground.
Main Building

The University of Notre Dame today announced the establishment of the Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., Center for Virtue Ethics, a signature element of the Notre Dame Ethics Initiative emerging from the University’s strategic framework.

The Jenkins Center for Virtue Ethics will support preeminent scholars whose research advances human flourishing in both moral and spiritual contexts, facilitate the development of undergraduate courses exploring topics such as justice and the common good, and deepen the ethical formation of Notre Dame students and faculty. The center will also play a transformative role in public discussion, drawing citizens into meaningful dialogue informed by virtue ethics — one of the most powerful and enduring contributions of the Catholic philosophical tradition.

The initial funding for this new center was made possible through the generosity of several members of the University’s Board of Trustees, along with other benefactors, and named in honor of University President Father Jenkins, who announced in October that he would step down at the end of the 2023–24 academic year to return to teaching and ministry at the University.

Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins, C.S.C., poses for a photo in his collar.
Rev. John Jenkins, C.S.C.

“As a professor of philosophy and as the president of Notre Dame for 19 years, Father Jenkins has devoted his career to building a world-class research university where both faith and reason are brought to bear on the most pressing questions of our day,” said Jack Brennan, chair of the University’s Board of Trustees. “The Jenkins Center for Virtue Ethics will advance his work by creating a dedicated arena in which the enduring relevance of virtue ethics thrives, where faith and reason flourish, and where major moral ideas unite people, rather than divide them.”

The center will be an essential part of the Notre Dame Ethics Initiative, a University-wide effort to establish Notre Dame as a premier global destination for the study of ethics, offering superb training for future generations of ethicists and moral leaders, a platform for engagement of the Catholic moral tradition with other modes of inquiry, and an opportunity to forge insights into some of the most significant ethical issues of our time. Virtue ethics will be a key area of focus for the initiative, as well as technology ethics, business ethics and environmental ethics, among others.

“Virtue ethics tells us that the moral life is not simply about discrete actions properly performed, nor about achieving laudable results in the world, but about becoming a certain kind of person,” Father Jenkins said. “In an age of moral confusion and uncertainty, this center will provide a powerful voice and compelling vision.”

A system of ethical inquiry focused on human flourishing, virtue ethics began with Plato and Aristotle and became the philosophical foundation of Christianity through the work of Augustine and Aquinas. It was reinvigorated in the 20th century by Catholic philosophers such as Elizabeth Anscombe and Alasdair MacIntyre, who was an endowed chair in Notre Dame’s Department of Philosophy for nearly two decades.

“Through the Jenkins Center for Virtue Ethics, Notre Dame will be at the forefront of new research in virtue ethics, continuing the long history of Catholic thought leadership in this field,” said Meghan Sullivan, the Ethics Initiative director and Wilsey Family College Professor of Philosophy.

 “Father Jenkins’ legacy will thrive and expand through this center, ensuring that his deep commitment to civil dialogue, intellectual and spiritual humility, human flourishing, and the common good will be at the core of Notre Dame’s work in the world.”


Originally published by Kate Garry and Laura Moran Walton at on April 09, 2024.