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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Markkula Ethics Center’s Kirk Hanson to Step Down

Kirk Hanson

Kirk Hanson

Executive Director to retire in early 2019

After 16 years at the helm of the preeminent university center for applied ethics in the world, Kirk O. Hanson has announced he will step down as executive director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University next summer.

Under Hanson’s leadership, the Center has become the largest and most active university-based ethics center in the world. It has grown to a staff of 26 from just six in 2001. Center staff, along with more than 70 faculty scholars working through the Center, provide leadership and ethical programming to SCU’s 9,000 students as well as to vast numbers of professionals in business, education, health care, journalism, government, technology, and the nonprofit social sector.

“Kirk’s leadership has helped the Center touch so many lives,“ said A.C. “Mike“ Markkula Jr., the former Apple executive whose seed gift created the Center. “Kirk’s work in the field of ethics will have a lasting impact on the Center, on Santa Clara University, and the world.”

Millions of individuals use the Center’s website, and more than 12,000 people have enrolled in its massive open online courses or MOOCs. Hanson and the Center staff have provided counsel to more than 75 universities that have studied the Markkula model. Since 1973, Hanson himself has advised over 100 businesses on the design of corporate ethics programs.

He writes extensively on managing the ethical and public behavior of corporations, including co-editing a four-volume series titled The Accountable Corporation.

“Kirk is an outstanding leader who has been able to build a really strong team and create a world-class ethics center that is leading ethics initiatives around the world,“ said Katie Martin, member of the Center’s Advisory Board and chair of the law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.

Hanson will step down upon appointment of a successor and will retire by summer of 2019.

“Kirk has made the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics what it is—one of the most prominent and respected ethics organizations in the world,“ said Center Advisory Board Chair Dick Levy. “He’s had the vision over the years to focus on areas where ethics are critical. He has been a wonderful spokesperson for ethics, for Santa Clara University, and for the Center. He is a great leader and communicator, with high energy, and will be a tough act to follow.”


When Hanson arrived at Santa Clara from the Stanford Graduate School of Business in 2001, he was already a well-known scholar in applied ethics, specializing in how individuals and organizations make ethical choices and create an ethical organizational culture. He had taught at Stanford for 23 years and has been an emeritus faculty member there since 2001.  

He holds the John Courtney Murray S.J. University Professorship in Social Ethics at Santa Clara. A graduate of Stanford University and the Stanford Graduate School of Business, he has held graduate fellowships and research appointments at the Yale Divinity School and the Harvard Business School, and received an honorary doctorate in 2013 from the University of Portland. He was honored by the Aspen Institute’s Center for Business Education with a lifetime achievement award for contributions to business and society.

Hanson has held other leadership roles in Silicon Valley, nationally and internationally as well.

He was the founding president of The Business Enterprise Trust, a national organization created in 1990 by leaders in business, labor, media, and academia to promote exemplary behavior in business organizations. He was the first chairman of the Santa Clara County Political Ethics Commission. He was the founding chair of the Advisory Board of the Center for International Business Ethics in Beijing, China's first center for the study of business ethics.

Hanson currently serves on the board of directors of the Skoll Community Fund and sits on the advisory board of the Neely Center for Ethical Leadership at the University of Southern California. He has twice chaired Stanford University’s Committee on Investment Responsibility, which advises the Stanford Board of Trustees on social investment issues.

“The Center has accomplished so much under Kirk’s guidance,“ said Kristi Markkula Bowers, director of the Markkula Foundation and trustee, Santa Clara University. “His leadership has taken the Center into the forefront of so many different disciplines--government ethics, technology and internet ethics, biomedical ethics, to name just a few. The Center has helped tens of thousands people and hundreds of organizations think about the ethical impact of what we do; He fearlessly asks not can we do it, but should we do it? When we have the ethical impact discussion, everyone is better; the world is better.”

About Santa Clara University

Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California’s Silicon Valley, offers its more than 9,000 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, and engineering; master’s degrees in business, education, counseling psychology, pastoral ministry, and theology; and law degrees and engineering doctoral degrees. Distinguished nationally by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master’s universities, California’s oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more information, see

About Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University

Founded in 1986 with a seed grant and initial endowment from Linda and A.C. “Mike“ Markkula Jr., the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics brings the traditions of ethical thinking to bear on real world problems. Beyond a full range of programs for the Santa Clara University community, the Center also serves professionals in fields from business to health care, from government to the social sector, providing innovative approaches to problems from fake news to privacy protection. Through its website and international collaborations, the Center brings ethical decision-making resources to the wider world. For more information see

Nov 29, 2017


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