Bishop Center for Ethical Leadership
Louise Carson Bishop was a beloved St. Petersburg philanthropist who gave generously to support the arts, healthcare and education. Her husband, Wally, was a nationally syndicated King Features cartoonist who drew the strip Mugs and Skeeter. The program of research and instruction that formed the foundation of the Bishop Center began in 1989 with the funding of the Bishop Program for Ethical Leadership. The Wally and Louise Bishop Center for Ethical Leadership was officially established in 2005.
In 1988, Mrs. Bishop began conversations with Stephen Ritch, then USF St. Petersburg’s chief student affairs administrator and a trusted family friend. Those conversations resulted in a leading-edge vision for a center on the St. Petersburg campus that would advance ethical leadership through interdisciplinary study, academic rigor and co-curricular practice.
Mrs. Bishop was eager to start turning the ideas into reality. In 1989, she committed a legacy endowment to fund the Wally and Louise Bishop Center for Ethical Leadership. She also made a substantial gift to fund the research necessary to create the program that would eventually lead to the establishment of the center. She asked Dr. Ritch to begin that research and development, which became known as the Bishop Program for Ethical Leadership, the precursor of the Bishop Center.
Academic associations with other USF faculty and staff resulted in the early versions of a leadership ethics course and the founding of the USF Leadership Studies minor. Dr. Ritch was asked to design an ethics course for the new minor. His research on behalf of the Bishop Program came to life in the classroom with the creation of the USF originated upper-level course, LDR 4204, Ethics and Power in Leadership. Students explore solutions offered by practical ethics to the multiple challenges posed by the corruptive nature of power, self-interest and tensions between effectiveness and being ethical. In the process, students’ ethical reasoning and moral development are enhanced consistent with the American Association Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) Ethical Reasoning VALUE Rubric.
Mrs. Bishop passed away on August 8, 2005. Shortly thereafter, the Wally and Louise Bishop Center for Ethical Leadership was officially created and Dr. Ritch was asked to become the founding director. Louise Carson Bishop had made a lasting impact across a wide spectrum of worthy causes. She often remarked that she was so proud of the Bishop Center, and that it was one of her top two legacy accomplishments.
Dr. Ritch continued development of the Leadership Studies minor. This included a study abroad version of Ethics and Power in Leadership. Classes were held in the places where philosophers being studied lived and taught so students could better appreciate the cultural and historical contexts of significant moral thought leaders. The Bishop Center was instrumental in the development of the International Leadership Association’s Guiding Questions: Guidelines for Leadership Education Programs and was a lead contributor to Commitment to Honor, USF’s honor statement.
Dr. Ritch retired in 2011 but continued to teach courses and consult for the center until 2020. During this time, he led a comprehensive curriculum review and revision as well as designed and implemented the academic elements of the Leadership House. Ethics and Power in Leadership was certified as USF Global Citizens and Enhanced General Education Ethical Reasoning/Civic Engagement tier courses.
H. William “Bill” Heller, a former campus executive officer and Florida state legislator, succeeded Dr. Ritch as director. Under Heller’s leadership, enrollment in the Leadership Studies minor continued to grow. A community educator at heart, Dean Heller, as he was affectionately known, broadened the center’s impact by offering more community-focused events, most notably welcoming hundreds of international guests for the World Open Space conference in 2013. In partnership with the USF center for civic engagement, the Bishop Center contributed significantly to cultivating civic engagement as a pedagogical approach for learning leadership. The center offered grants to faculty, helped USF maintain its Carnegie classification in Civic Engagement, and in 2018 contributed significantly to the inaugural civic fellows program, a program called Youth in Government that was run by the YMCA in partnership with USF’s Center for Civic Engagement.
In 2019, Dean Heller retired after 27 years at USF. The tremendous impact he had with the Bishop Center was just one small part of his lasting legacy at the USF St. Petersburg campus and in the community. A gifted leader and beloved philanthropist in his own right, Heller left a generous financial gift with the center before his passing in 2020.
Dean Heller was succeeded by his long-time assistant at the center, David O’Neill, who continues to serve as director of the center today. Dejun “Tony” Kong, a “trust scholar” was appointed as the academic director for the Bishop Center in Fall 2020. The center has a promising future serving the USF community, and in many ways, is well positioned to achieve the vision and intent of Louise Bishop’s original gift – to help develop the next generation of ethical leaders across three campuse