News Detail

Announcing the Holzman Center of Applied Ethics

Message from Head of School Penny Townsend to the RE community on November 2, 2021:

The Townsend family traveled to Boston late last month to watch our son, Charlie – Uncle Charlie to grandkids Cameron and Caroline – who is on the coaching staff of the San Jose Sharks hockey team. The game took me back to all of the years we cheered him on in his youth; even then, the skill and speed of the players was amazing. To be a good hockey player you have to be athletic and a good skater. In Boston, I was reminded of just how fast ice hockey is, how many split-second decisions the game requires, and how many grueling hours of training are necessary for good decision-making to become instinctive.
The lightning-paced game prompted my thinking about the parallels to adolescent life in this high-tech era: Our students are flooded with information at high speeds and from many sources. They are forced to make ethical and moral valuations on the spot, often a swipe or click away from dire consequences. Understanding the realities of this age, and the unprecedented challenges facing our children, led Ransom Everglades to an important development that we expect will have a far-reaching impact on our students and our school.

I am thrilled to announce the opening of the Holzman Center of Applied Ethics, a resource that will empower students to engage in ethical decision-making and to act with honor, excellence and integrity at RE and beyond. The center, whose founding director is Associate Head of School John A. King, Jr., reflects the belief that ethics and morality must be taught and reinforced so that principled decision-making becomes a way of life. That is what Paul Ransom and Marie Swenson intended when they founded, respectively, the Adirondack-Florida School and Everglades School for Girls.

The center will provide specific programming – workshops, symposia, speakers, research opportunities and curricular updates – that will ensure that Ransom Everglades students enter the world understanding the importance of ethical behavior in all endeavors, and the consequences to individuals and societies when integrity and honor are sacrificed. The center will share the Ransom Cottage until it eventually finds a home in a future, new humanities building, and it will launch officially in December, when City of Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez will address upper school students during assembly.

The idea and seed funding for the center came from Steve Holzman P’21, a former Parent Chair for The Fund for RE, who approached me and board chair Jeffrey Hicks ’84 this past summer to push this plan forward. Mr. Holzman, a managing partner at a private equity firm, was concerned that, without a foundation in ethics and critical thinking, students of this era are ill-equipped to face growing challenges in evaluating right from wrong, differentiating fact from fiction and making good decisions on the fly. Mr. Hicks and I agreed, and offered Mr. Holzman our full support.

“It’s my privilege and honor to be associated with this,” Mr. Holzman told me.  “I don’t think there is any question that corner cutting and cheating have increased across the spectrum. I do think we can do something about it in a positive way. This is a great pathway for Ransom Everglades. The practice of ethics must become a way of life.”

Attorney John O’Sullivan P’14 ’21 also offered financial and logistical support for the center, which after Mayor Suarez's inaugural address will continue with a series of talks on ethics from prominent speakers. The activities of the center under Dr. King's direction will develop over time; these will include ensuring that the honor code is fully integrated into all aspects of the curriculum, activities and culture of the school; offering week-long summer programs that explore ethics in various realms; creating opportunities and forums for periodic ethical conversations for students and faculty on campus; and incorporating ethical decision making into our health and wellness programming.

The parallels between the lives of our students and the game of hockey end with outcomes. When the Sharks lose, Charlie immediately starts looking forward to the next game. The stakes are greater for our children. They face more extreme consequences for daily decisions than any generation previously. When I was a teen, we did not have the expression “going viral.” We didn’t come face to face with the world at large as routinely and easily as this generation does.

Students today need a strong ethical foundation to keep standing tall, choosing right and doing good. At Ransom Everglades, we intend to give it to them.

Penny Townsend
Head of School
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Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.