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Good Character: Michael Josephson, 2009 UCLA Alumnus of the Year

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By Bethany Powers '11

Published Oct 22, 2009 11:00 AM


Trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. These are the six pillars that define the character-education movement CHARACTER COUNTS! created by Michael Josephson '64, J.D. '67.

His dedication to improving the ethical and moral fabric of the country is why Josephson has been named this year's Edward A. Dickson Alumnus of the Year by the UCLA Alumni Association. He will be honored Nov. 20 at the 2009 UCLA Awards, which celebrates outstanding alumni and friends of the university who exemplify the UCLA spirit in their accomplishments and their dedication to service.

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"The mission of Michael's work exemplifies what it means to be a Bruin. It identified 'the hole in the moral ozone,' and then took the initiative to try and fix it — for ourselves and our children. It's an ambitious goal, but that's what UCLA graduates do: they meet challenges head-on with passion and perseverance. UCLA is proud to recognize Michael's vision and social impact," says Ralph Amos, Assistant Vice Chancellor, Alumni Relations.

In 1987, Josephson created the Joseph and Edna Josephson Institute of Ethics to teach ethics in business, government, and law. After seeing the results of a report on the ethics of youth, and noticing a serious deterioration in the values of young people, he and his board decided that the youth needed help — so he created CHARACTER COUNTS! to educate youngsters about integrity and ethics.

He estimates that as many as 7 million young people have been touched through the program. And during the third week of October, participating schools and youth-affiliated organizations celebrate CHARACTER COUNTS! Week, honoring everything the program stands for — taking pride in good character and showing young people how important it is.

While no definitive study has been done to note the effects of CHARACTER COUNTS!, Josephson says that even if young people think about values and ethics just a little bit more, he considers it a success.

CHARACTER COUNTS! has also been spreading into larger communities. Ralph's grocery stores, who used the Josephson Institute to teach their employees business ethics, have recently adopted the program. This kind of partnership between business and Character Counts is exactly what Josephson intended.

Josephson also offers ethics commentary on the radio in an award-winning program that has been running for 13 years on Southern California's KNX 1070.

He acknowledges that a lot of the drive and passion he feels towards character education and teaching youth ethics comes from being a father of five.

"I'm very concerned about their friends, and if their school is safe, and making sure they and the people they interact with have the tools necessary for decision making."

Family clearly is a huge part of his life. The Josephson Institute was founded in honor of his parents, and he also intends it to be a legacy for his children.

Past recipients of the Alumnus of the Year award include Arthur Ashe, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tim Robbins, and Jerry Lewis.

Josephson spent 7 years at UCLA, and he says it's an "honor to be honored by UCLA."

2009 UCLA Awards, hosted by Chancellor Gene Block and Mrs. Carol Block. Grand Horizon Room, Covel Commons. Nov. 20. RSVP by November 2nd. For tickets and information, call (310)-206-0532 or email the Alumni Association at Awards@UCLAlumni.net. For more information, visit the 2009 UCLA Awards.

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