October 31, 2011
ByRodger Jones/Editorial Writer
We got an email from an SMU student who has put forth a professor's name as a candidate for 2011 Dallas Morning News Texan of the Year.
He is Rick Halperin, who has established a major in human rights. He is an agitator, of sorts, fighting for recognition for people who have gotten a raw deal. Some of them are on the other side of the world. Some are in our own backyard, in Texas prisons.
He recently took up the cause of Rais Bhuyian, a race-motivated shooting victim who wanted to save the life of Mark Stroman, his attacker. Stroman was executed this summer for two deaths in his post-Sept. 11 shooting spree, but only after a highly publicized campaign courtesy of Rick Halperin....
Excerpt of the email from Halperin's nominator, Adriana Martinez:
As he's done for 21 years, Professor Rick Halperin works tirelessly at SMU to broaden students' world views and philosophical, historical, and present day understandings of social justice. Halperin, also the former chair of the Board of Amnesty International USA, has been teaching human rights at SMU since 1990, when in many minds, teaching human rights at a college many believe to be ultra-conservative would have been a lost cause.
But it wasn't. His teachings gained so much interest from students and their families that in 2006, when after philanthropist Lauren Embrey attended one of his annual Holocaust tour trips to Poland, the Embrey Family Foundation of Dallas began contributing money (as of 2010, $1.8 million) to help make his vision a program (and with a minor degree).
And this year, with the Embrey Human Rights Program the fastest-growing one at SMU, it was announced that the program would begin offering a major--the first of its kind in the South, or any place west of the Mississippi. And only the fifth in the nation. (At a university that will be hosting the George W. Bush Presidential Center very soon.)
This is a compelling idea. What are yours?