Nov. 8-21, 2002
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University’s highest honor is given to Childress

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Computer classes buck trend
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James F. Childress
Photo by Peggy Harrison
James Childress

University’s highest honor is given to Childress

By Matt Kelly

James F. Childress, who has attended Fall Convocation for five consecutive years – often at the request of students receiving intermediate honors – almost missed this year’s event.

Childress, recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Award on Oct. 25, planned to go to a conference where his wife was presenting a paper, but a last-minute change in her plans freed him to make Convocation after all.

“I was honored and surprised – but delighted,” Childress said after the ceremony. “What I do is its own reward, but it is nice to have my activities approved by others.”

A professor of ethics and medical education, Childress, 62, was the 47th recipient of U.Va.’s highest award that honors a member of the its community who exemplifies in character, work and influences the ideals of the University’s founder.

In bestowing the award, President John T. Casteen III called the breadth of Childress’ academic gaze stunning. “Mr. Childress is both an expert philosopher and a theologian. … His contributions and loyalty to the University of Virginia and his embodiment of the ideals of the University’s founder are extraordinary,” he said. “He never wavers from his vision – a vision remarkably akin to that of Mr. Jefferson – of the centrality of the student, both as the object of educational efforts and as the University’s moral heart.

“He is a good person, in the fullest sense of that phrase.”

It was easy to understand why Childress, a much-loved professor, received a standing ovation from the more than 600 faculty, students and their families gathered at Convocation.

A former Professor of the Year, Childress’ first love is his students. This semester he is co-teaching a popular new course – “21st Century Choices: War, Justice and Human Rights” – that filled to capacity within hours of being announced.

Director of the Institute for Practical Ethics, Childress became interested in ethics 32 years ago while participating in a program about donor organs at the Law School. He joined the faculty in 1968, twice chairing the Department of Religious Studies. He has been principal of Monroe Hill College and co-director of the Virginia Health Policy Center.

He serves on many national committees and boards, including the national Task Force on Organ Transplantation, the Biomedical Ethics Advisory Committee and several data and safety monitoring boards for National Institutes of Health clinical trials.


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