Embrey Human Rights Program

History and Leadership

SMU's Embrey Human Rights Program grew from a $1 million gift from sisters and SMU alumnae Lauren and Gayle Embrey in 2006. Prompted by Lauren Embrey's life-changing trip to Poland in 2005 with Rick Halperin and other members of the SMU community, the sisters' gift enabled SMU to create a pioneering program in human rights.

Rick Halperin
Rick Halperin, Director of SMU's Embrey Human Rights Program

Halperin began teaching human rights courses in 1990 in the William P. Clements Department of History at Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. He was chosen as director of the new Embrey Human Rights Program and began overseeing its academic program, planning its free public events and developing a wide array of human rights-focused trips.

Halperin has held many leadership positions in human rights and social justice organizations. During his more than 40-year affiliation with Amnesty International USA, he has served as chair of its board of directors three times. He has also served on the boards of 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. He has participated in a U.N. human rights delegation that inspected Irish prison conditions in Dublin and Belfast as well as in delegations monitoring human rights in El Salvador and Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza.

Halperin holds a degree in 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).