The McGowan Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility was founded in 2012 under the Center's current director, Dr. Bernard G. Prusak. It succeeds two earlier ethics centers at King's, the first founded in 1994 as a joint undertaking of the philosophy and theology departments, the second founded in 2005 to serve the College's business school.

The McGowan Center hosts five to ten public events per year, including five annual lectures: the Labor Day Lecture, the Constitution Day Lecture, the Feast of Saint Francis Lecture, the Bessette Lecture on Medical Ethics, and the Science and Humanities Lecture. Labor Day lecturers have included economists Teresa Ghilarducci, from the New School for Social Research; David Feldman, from the College of William and Mary; and Patrisia Macias-Rojas, from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Constitution Day lectures have been given by Gregory Bassham, from King's College (PA); Robert Vischer, from the University of St. Thomas (MN); and Mary Ellen O'Connell, from the University of Notre Dame. Journalist Mollie Wilson O'Reilly, associate editor of Commonweal magazine, gave the inaugural Feast of Saint Francis Lecture, followed by Patrick Ryan, S.J., from Fordham University; Iia DeLio, O.S.F., from Villanova University; and Nicholas Cafardi, from Duquesne University. Bessette lecturers have been F. Daniel Davis, director of bioethics for the Geisinger Medical System; Daniel Sulmasy, from the University of Chicago; Kevin FitzGerald, S.J., from Georgetown University; Kate Rossiter, from Wilfrid-Laurier University; and Michael Gusmano, from the Hastings Center and Rutgers University. The Center's Science and Humanities Lecture was inaugurated by Marvin Bolt, from the Corning Museum of Glass, followed by Mitchell Wayne, from the University of Notre Dame, and Christiana Zenner Peppard, from Fordham University.