A Larger Sense of Purpose: Higher Education and Society

A Larger Sense of Purpose: Higher Education and Society

A Larger Sense of Purpose: Higher Education and Society

A Larger Sense of Purpose: Higher Education and Society


Universities were once largely insular institutions whose purview extended no further than the campus gates. Not anymore. Today's universities have evolved into multifaceted organizations with complex connections to government, business, and the community. This thought-provoking book by Harold Shapiro, former president of both Princeton University and the University of Michigan, and Chairman of the National Bioethics Advisory Commission under President Bill Clinton, explores the role the modern university should play as an ethical force and societal steward.

Based on the 2003 Clark Kerr lectures, A Larger Sense of Purpose draws from Shapiro's twenty-five years of experience leading major research universities and takes up key topics of debate in higher education. What are the nature and objectives of a liberal education? How should universities address the increasing commercialization not only of intercollegiate sports but of education and research? What are the university's responsibilities for the moral education of students?

The book begins with an expanded history of the modern research institution followed by essays on ethics, the academic curriculum, the differences between private and public higher education, the future of intellectual property rights, and the changing relationship between the nation's universities and the for-profit sector. Shapiro calls for universities to be more accountable morally as well as academically. He urges scientists not only to educate others about the potential and limitations of science but also to acknowledge the public's distress over the challenges presented by the very success of the scientific enterprise. He advocates for a more intimate connection between professional training and the liberal arts--in the hope that future doctors, lawyers, and business executives will be educated in ethics and the social sciences as well as they are in anatomy, torts, and leveraged buyouts.

Candid, timely, and provocative, A Larger Sense of Purpose demands the attention of not only those in academics but of anyone who shares an interest in the soul of education.


It is a special honor to have been chosen to give the first in what will be a series of biannual lectures established to honor Clark Kerr, the very memorable president of the University of California. in the fifteen years he served first as chancellor of the Berkeley campus (1952-1958) and then as president of the University of California (1958-1967), he stood at the center of an institution characterized, somewhat paradoxically, by both great conflict and increasing academic distinction. An unkind and uninformed observer might characterize his tenure as chancellor and then president as bracketed by the aftermath of the loyalty oath controversy in the early years and by the Free Speech Movement in his last years. the fact is that despite these controversies, some of which were externally driven, he never lost sight of the big picture. His stubborn dedication to the possibilities that lay ahead were a key factor in enabling the Berkeley campus and the University of California to move from strength to strength.

One of the ironies of the tenure of this thoughtful Quaker was that at various times he was denounced enthusiastically by both the political left and the political right. He must have been doing something right! He certainly had the courage to offend many powerful people in defense of what he thought was right not only relative to his own beliefs, but in the long term interests of the university he served. the 1960 Master Plan alone would have been sufficient to establish him as an innovative builder of American higher education, but his contributions went far beyond that both in his years at California and subsequently. in my judgment, President Kerr's record as an innovator, a continuing source of inspiration and as the builder of a great institution is unquestionable. While controversy often raged about him, whether about which political views were too dangerous to be . . .

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