Dr. Jonathan D. Moreno ‘73
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What is your edge (strength)?
Open-mindedness and an affinity for new ideas.
What at Hofstra gave you your edge?
Hofstra has always been open to new ideas, and gives students the opportunity to utilize them. In my time [the late ’60s], faculty respected new ideas and creativity – and faculty coming in from New York City brought a lot of energy and creativity to campus. Hofstra pioneered access for students with disabilities, allowing these students to have a full, vigorous college experience, which I very much respected. The senior administrators always understood what was going on with the students, which was reflected in the campus opportunities.
Hofstra gave me the opportunity to make a lot of mistakes – all colleges should do this! Most of us experience our best learning from our mistakes.
What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
Bioethics. I was teaching philosophy at George Washington University in the late ’70s, and was approached to teach a new experimental course in bioethics with their medical school.
What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned there?
During my first job at George Washington University, I learned how to handle academic politics while being an assistant professor without tenure. It was a Hofstra political science professor who first told me that academic politics were bitter!
What is the single most rewarding experience in your career thus far?
Every part of my career has been rewarding. I have enjoyed being able to teach a large range of students – from freshmen to graduate-level students. My work in Washington, D.C., on policy and bioethics was extremely interesting and fulfilling. I am extremely honored to have received the David and Lyn Silfen University Professorship, becoming professor of medical ethics and of history and sociology of science at Penn. Penn is a very exciting, stimulating, intense environment, which I love. They are very progressive and work hard at creating international relationships.
Who in your field do you most admire?
Former Chair of the Clinton Bioethics Advisory Commission Harold Shapiro. Harold is also the former president of Princeton University and is an economist by trade, now teaching bioethics at Princeton.
What was your major?
Philosophy and psychology.
What was your favorite class?
Dr. Evelyn Shirk’s philosophy class. I knew within minutes of starting the class that this was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. In the fall of 1970 Dr. Shirk called my attention to a new program in law and public policy at Yale. Interdisciplinary studies and influencing public policy were new at the time, and I credit Dr. Shirk with putting the bug in my head about this combined field of study.
What are your fondest memories of Hofstra?
Hofstra gave me the opportunity to be close to the politics and politicians of the late ’60s and early ’70s. I was able to interact with the political figures of the time, like speaking at a McGovern rally prior to the election, and interviewing Barry Goldwater as a freshman working for WVHC (now WRHU). With the politics of the time, winning the Student Senate presidency was a major accomplishment and a very big deal on campus – becoming president of Student Senate in the early ’70s was a very memorable event. Also, I was the first senior to teach a one-credit course in philosophy (History of Behaviorism) – which started this opportunity for exceptional seniors at Hofstra.
In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
What advice would you give current students?
There is probably at least one thing that each of your professors can say to you that will be very important for your life, even though it may not be obvious to you at the time. Despite the many distractions of university life, your faculty is the most valuable resource you’ll have access to – so take advantage of them!
How do you balance work and life?
It is certainly very challenging to have a family and career at the same time. Balancing work and life requires patience and dependence on your family for support.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I imagine I will be doing very much the same thing I am doing now: enjoying teaching, communicating, writing, and trying to influence national policy for the better on science and ethics.
At what point in your career did you find yourself selected to serve as a senior staffer for two presidential advisory committees?
During the 1990s my friend Ruth Faden at Johns Hopkins University was chairing the President's Advisory Commission on Human Radiation Experiments, and sought me out to serve. I then went on to serve as a consultant to the later Clinton Bioethics Advisory Commission, chaired by Harold Shapiro. One of the unexpected perks of bioethics is not only academic, but public policy work.
Tell us more about your frequent appearances on television. Did these occur as a natural extension of your work in ethics?
Society has become more interested in bioethics, and a number of people in this area have become prominent around the issue. The television appearances are a natural extension of my work because I am a good communicator, and natural teacher. You have to be willing to spend a lot of time educating the press – most media outlets don’t have expertise in the field of bioethics. Often when you talk to them you won’t get on the air or get mentioned in the piece – but you can frame the issues and have tremendous influence in that way. It’s a very good way to get the message out to a broad public.
Of the many varied experiences you have had in your career, which has been most fulfilling thus far?
I have enjoyed every aspect of my career. It is incredibly fulfilling to be able to teach (aside from grading papers), write, and influence public policy on a topic one cares about so passionately.