Rick Halperin, Director of the Human Rights Project at SMU

  • September 26, 2018
  • 12:00 PM
  • Weiss Auditorium Methodist Hospital Dallas Education Building

Rick Halperin is director of the Embrey Human Rights Program in Dedman College of Humanities & Sciences at Southern Methodist University. He joined the university’s history department in 1985 and began teaching human rights courses in 1990.

In 2012 SMU began offering an undergraduate major in human rights, making it the first University in the South, and only the fifth in the country, to offer such a degree. This came five years after the Embrey Human Rights Program was created after a gift from The Embrey Family Foundation of Dallas.

Outside the classroom, Halperin leads groups of students, faculty and community members on human rights educational journeys three times each year to such places as Argentina, Cambodia, Rwanda, South Africa, El Salvador, Bosnia and numerous Holocaust sites across Europe. That includes Poland, where, during the last two weeks of December, he takes a group to visit death camps and other Holocaust sites in order to learn about and pay tribute to the men, women and children destroyed in the camps, and to honor those who survived the experience.

Halperin has held many leadership positions in human rights and social justice organizations, including Amnesty International USA, for which, during his more than 40-year affiliation, he’s served as chair of the board of directors three times. He also has served on the board of directors for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, the Center for Survivors of Torture, the International Rescue Committee and the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

The educator stays active in human rights monitoring projects, which have included participation in a U.N. Human Rights delegation that inspected prison conditions in Dublin, Ireland, and Belfast, Northern Ireland, for the Irish Prison Commission; a human rights monitoring delegation in El Salvador and Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza. On the domestic front he was part of an Amnesty International delegation that investigated the conditions of the Terrell Unit (Texas death row facility) in Livingston, Texas, and has been eyewitness to a lethal injection execution in the death chamber in Huntsville, Texas.

Halperin works with numerous organizations that help women, children, gays and lesbians, indigenous persons, survivors of torture, imprisoned political prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders, journalists, and healthcare professionals under nonstop assault by governments around the world.

The activist’s awards and recognition include the Amnesty International Frederick Douglass Abolitionist Award, Dallas Peacemaker of the Year, DCTV Freedom of Speech Award, NCADP Grassroots Activism Award, NCADP Lifetime Abolition Achievement Award, Humanitarian Service Award from the Human Rights Congress for Bangladesh Minorities of Dallas-Fort Worth, and the Dallas Young Lawyers Liberty Bell Award. He also is a recipient of a National Faculty Award from the National Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Programs.

At SMU, Halperin has received the “M” Award (the University’s highest honor for outstanding service), three Outstanding Faculty Teacher Awards and a Robert O. Cooper Fellowship in Peace and Justice. He also was named a Piper Professor.

Halperin holds degrees in Southern U.S. history from George Washington University (B.A., 1971), Southern U.S. history from Southern Methodist University (M.A., 1974) and Southern U.S. history from Auburn University (Ph.D., 1978). He also has studied at The Sorbonne in Paris (1968-1969).

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