Rushworth Moulton Kidder (1944–2012)
Rushworth M. Kidder, a celebrated journalist and ethicist who devoted his life to expanding the importance and understanding of practical ethics education, died from natural causes in Florida on Monday, March 5, 2012.
Dr. Kidder was a longtime resident of Maine, where he and his wife of forty-six years, Elizabeth, raised two daughters and founded the Institute for Global Ethics, one of the world’s leading voices on corporate and educational ethics.
Widely praised as a provocative speaker and stimulating author, Kidder’s lifelong goal was to make ethics both practical and practiced, bridging the gap between moral philosophy and daily life. He spent much of his career calling for less polarization and greater cooperation — in politics, at school, within communities — by noting that many of life’s greatest challenges involve right-versus-right dilemmas between competing moral arguments.
This philosophical framework served as the foundation for his nonprofit Institute for Global Ethics, which began as a second-story walk-up in the coastal Maine village of Camden. The Institute later opened offices in New York City and London, England, becoming a worldwide resource for practical ethics education and consultation. The Institute carries on Kidder’s work through regular seminars and workshops, a Center for Corporate Ethics in New York, and publication of Ethics Newsline®, an internet-based ethics digest for which he wrote a weekly column for more than 14 years.
Rush was a family man, first and foremost, cherishing the time spent with his surviving family — his wife Anne Elizabeth Davidson Kidder; his daughters Abby Kidder of Boston, Massachusetts, and Sgt. Heather Kidder of Miami, Florida; and godson Dwight Deckelmann of Cumberland, Maine. Rush’s faith and church community served as a grounding force in his life. He will be greatly missed and fondly remembered for his maritime adventures, his ready wit, and his gift for making the piano sing.
Prior to founding the Institute for Global Ethics, Kidder served as a longtime journalist for The Christian Science Monitor, based in Boston, Massachusetts. He began his career at the newspaper in 1979 as London correspondent, eventually taking over weekly commentary duties on the Boston area as well as social trends and issues. Two of his essays appeared in the American Society of Newspaper Editors’ Best Newspaper Writing, 1983. As the Monitor’s feature editor from 1983 to 1985, he was part of a six-person team running the newspaper, ultimately serving as senior columnist until 1990. The New York Times described Kidder as one of the Monitor’s “most celebrated journalists.”
Kidder won widespread acclaim for his 1994 book Shared Values for a Troubled World: Conversations with Men and Women of Conscience, which chronicled his efforts to identify a global code of ethics. Journalist and commentator Bill Moyers hailed the book’s interviews with 24 opinion makers from 16 countries, noting that “only Rush Kidder would have made this odyssey, and only Rush Kidder could have returned with such a valuable cargo of insights.”
Kidder later wrote How Good People Make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living, which was praised by President Jimmy Carter as “a thought-provoking guide to enlightened and progressive personal behavior.” Over the course of nearly forty years, he authored twelve books, including:
- Good Kids, Tough Choices: How Parents Can Help Their Children Do the Right Thing (2010)
- The Ethics Recession: Reflections on the Moral Underpinnings of the Current Economic Crisis (2009)
- Moral Courage: Taking Action When Your Values are Put to the Test (2005)
- How Good People Make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living (1995)
- Shared Values for a Troubled World: Conversations with Men and Women of Conscience (1994)
- Heartland Ethics: Voices from the American Midwest (as editor) (1992)
- In the Backyards of Our Lives and Other Essays (1992)
- Global Ethics: A Quartet of Interviews (1992)
- Reinventing the Future: Global Goals for the 21st Century (1989)
- An Agenda for the Twenty-First Century (1987)
- E.E. Cummings: An Introduction to the Poetry (Columbia Introductions to Twentieth-Century American Poetry) (1979)
- Dylan Thomas: The Country of the Spirit (1973)
Rushworth Moulton Kidder was born in 1944 and raised in Amherst, Massachusetts, one of three children born to Dr. George Kidder, a biochemistry professor at Amherst College, and his wife and lab assistant Ruth. He was an honors graduate of Amherst College (1965) and earned a Ph.D. from Columbia University in English and Comparative Literature (1969). Dr. Kidder taught English for ten years at Wichita State University in Wichita, Kansas. In 1980, he won the Explicator Literary Foundation Award for his book on the poetry of E.E. Cummings, whose writings and paintings remained a passion throughout his life.
A committed philanthropist, Kidder was one of the longest standing trustees of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation in Flint, Michigan. He was instrumental in the founding and development of the World Ocean School in 2001 and was an active member of its Board of Directors. He also served on the advisory council of the Character Education Partnership, the research council for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, The Conference Board Working Group on Global Business Ethics Principles, and the advisory board of PBS’s “Religion & Ethics Newsweekly.”
We have lost “our great friend, leader, and colleague,” said Paul McAuliffe, Chair of the Institute’s Board and current Executive Director of the U.S. Federal Reserve Employee Benefits System. “We will work diligently to honor Rush’s legacy and to keep alive the contributions that he and the Institute have made to the advancement of ethics in our world.”
In accord with Rush’s wishes, a private family service will be held in Florida. Donations in his honor may be made to the Institute for Global Ethics in Rockport, Maine; the World Ocean School in Camden, Maine; and Daystar, Inc., a Christian Science Nursing Facility in Davie, Florida.