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Geoffrey Sayre-McCord holding a book and gesturing while lecturing. Students sitting in the lecture hall visible in the background.

Geoffrey Sayre-McCord directs the philosophy, politics and economics program, which has more than 400 minors this year. (photo by Donn Young)

In their end-of-course comments, Geoffrey Sayre-McCord’s students describe him as “amazing,” “engaging,” “academically stimulating,” “respectful” and “brilliant” — as well as “a little goofy, as philosophy professors should be.”

They make it clear that it’s not only the content of an introductory class like “Virtue, Value and Happiness,” with its readings of Plato, Aristotle, Kant and Mills, that has helped them explore the nature of value. It’s also the enthusiastic way Sayre-McCord teaches that provides them a living example of a man happy in his work and in his life.

“He finds a way to make dusty philosophic diatribes come alive and applies them well to the lives we live today,” one student wrote of the Morehead-Cain Alumni Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and the director of the philosophy, politics and economics program.

Showing philosophy’s relevance to everyday life is a driving force behind Sayre-McCord’s work at Carolina: his development of the PPE program and the founding of the Parr Center for Ethics and the National High School Ethics Bowl is evidence.

The Faculty Council recently honored Sayre-McCord with the 2022-2023 Thomas Jefferson Award, presented annually to the faculty member who best exemplifies Jefferson’s values of democracy, public service and the pursuit of knowledge.

Sayre-McCord’s focus in recent years has been the interdisciplinary PPE program, established in 2005. With more than 400 minors this year, the fast-growing program is the largest of its kind in the country.

Published in the Spring 2023 issue | The Scoop

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