A Conversation Among Presidents

Georgia Tech hosts discussion among five university presidents

It’s rare that presidents from five Atlanta universities are able to share the same stage. That’s what happened on April 24 when Georgia Institute of Technology President G.P. “Bud” Peterson co-hosted “A Conversation Among Presidents” at the Historic Academy of Medicine.

Peterson and his peers from Agnes Scott College, Emory University, Morehouse College and Spellman College came together for a discussion on compassion. The topic was chosen in response to Georgia Tech’s 2012 Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage honoree, renowned epidemiologist Dr. William Foege, as well as The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the freshman reading assignment at Agnes Scott.

"Ethics and compassion cannot be separated from science and technology. The driving force behind the discoveries in science and the applications in engineering and technology is the need to improve the human condition," said Peterson. "The challenge, and the commitment needed, is to do the right thing, regardless.  Ethics has been compared to tennis - either it is in or it is out. While there are many hard decisions along the way about which choice is the most ethical, a good leader’s decision should never be whether or not to remain ethical."

Scheller College of Business Professor Bill Todd moderated the event, which also included discussions about science, race, ethics, social courage and the importance of social compassion in every campus culture.

“Perhaps a lack of courage stems from a lack of compassion,” said Todd.

The event was open to students, faculty, staff and parents.

“This was such an awesome and incredible event,” said Eran Mordel, past president of Georgia Tech’s Student Government Association. “It’s very rare that you have five intelligent, creative and knowledgeable education leaders in one room, on one stage. The conversation was captivating, and I was inspired by so many statements made by the presidents.”

All five presidents agreed that compassion is a quality they are working to successfully incorporate into their respective campus cultures.

Written by Vett Vandiver, Institute Communications Student Assistant