Methodist educational leaders from around the globe gathered at the Carter Center in Atlanta on Tuesday evening to honor the achievements of Rev. Dr. James T. Laney, President Emeritus of Emory University. Laney is the inaugural recipient of the Global Ethical Leadership Award.
The award was jointly presented by the Association of United Methodist Theological Schools (AUMTS), the International Association of Methodist, Schools, Colleges and Universities (IAMSCU), and the National Association of Schools and Colleges of The United Methodist Church (NASCUMC). All three associations are voluntary organizations that were initiated by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM), the leadership development agency of The United Methodist Church.
The Global Ethical Leadership Award was established in 2019 to recognize individuals who have demonstrated ethical leadership that is grounded in moral courage and integrity and informed by a commitment to the highest ethical standards. Laney was selected as the first recipient because of his outsized impact on global Methodist higher education and his principled leadership as a university president, diplomat, pastor and missionary.
Laney’s vision for Emory University helped make it into the world-class research institution it is today, and under his guidance, the graduate school – which now bears his name – swelled in size and teaching capacity. He further worked to expand the school’s merit scholarship offerings, opening the door to higher education for more high-achieving students of all backgrounds and income levels.
Following his 16-year career at Emory, Laney served as U.S. Ambassador to South Korea where he was instrumental in helping diffuse the 1994 North Korean Nuclear Crisis.
In every leadership role he’s held, Laney has purposefully cultivated a high-integrity environment and a broader commitment to morally guided action.
“Moral leaders are people of integrity, courage and imagination. People endowed with those qualities serve the common good, not just their own zip code,” said Rev. Dr. Robert M. Franklin, Jr., the evening’s keynote speaker.
Franklin is the first to hold the James T. and Berta R. Laney Chair in Moral Leadership at Emory’s Candler School of Theology. Laney and his wife established the endowed professorship in 2014 to focus on challenging students to embrace and extend the concept of moral leadership in many contexts and cultures in the United States and abroad.
In describing the legacy of Laney and his wife Berta, Franklin noted the powerful mark they left on Emory University.
“They have modeled moral leadership while nurturing an enduring institution,” he said.
Following the keynote, Rev. Dr. Young Min Paik brought greetings and congratulations for Laney from South Korea. Paik is the director of the GBHEM Leadership, Education and Development Hub (LEAD Hub) in South Korea and a professor of communication at Yonsei University in Seoul.
“The Korean people will forever remember you as a passionate educator, peacemaker and as a wonderful friend who loved Korea so much,” he said.
Laney’s impact on educators throughout the world was clear not only from Paik’s words but also as college and university presidents from across the globe rose in a standing ovation for the presentation of Laney’s award.
Leaders from NASCUMC, IAMSCU and AUMTS presented the award and noted that for all future presentations, the honor will be known as the James T. Laney Global Ethical Leadership Award.
“I am touched beyond expression by this honor and grace that you bestow on me,” said Laney.
About GBHEM: As the leadership development agency of The United Methodist Church, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s mission is to build capacity for United Methodist lay and clergy leaders to discover, claim and flourish in Christ’s calling in their lives, by creating connections and providing resources to aid in recruitment, education, professional development and spiritual formation. Every elder, deacon and licensed local pastor benefits from our training and candidacy programs. Many young adults find help in clarifying their vocation and God’s call in their lives through our leadership and discernment programs. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook: @GBHEM.