Sobibór survivor to speak at SMU Oct. 13, 2011

Rick Halperin

Sobibór survivor to speak at SMU Oct. 13, 2011

Philip BialowitzOne of only eight living survivors of the infamous Nazi death camp Sobibór will speak at SMU nearly 68 years to the day after he joined a prisoner-led revolt to ultimately survive the Holocaust.

An Evening with Philip Bialowitz,” sponsored by SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program, will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13 in McCord Auditorium, 306 Dallas Hall.

“If anyone survives, bear witness to what happened here!” revolt leader Aleksandr Pechersky told 17-year-old Philip Bialowitz, his brother and a small group of prisoners before their escape from where some 250,000 people were killed between 1942 and 1943.

Sobibór was one of three camps designed purely for extermination, and only 48 people who were held captive there, including Bialowitz, lived to tell about it. The camp was one of the Nazis’ best-kept secrets – so much so that when one of its survivors spoke of it to a survivor of Auschwitz, he was reportedly told, “You have a tremendous imagination. I’ve never heard of Sobibór and especially not of Jews revolting there.”

Bialowitz, 86, wrote about his experiences in his 2010 book, A Promise at Sobibór: A Jewish Boy’s Story of Revolt and Survival in Nazi-Occupied Poland.

“The fact that he overcame Herculean odds to survive Sobibór and then escape from it is testament to his immense will to live,” says Embrey Program Director Rick Halperin, who takes students, staff and others to the Sobibór site each year as part of a two-week Holocaust-focused tour of Poland.

Bialowitz’ book will be sold and signed at the event. For more details, visit or call 214-768-8347.

> Read the full story from SMU News

October 11, 2011|Calendar Highlights, News|

SMU trustees approve new Human Rights major to begin Spring 2012

SMU Embrey Human Rights Program logoSMU has become the first university in the South, and only the fifth in the country, to offer an academic major in human rights. Approved Sept. 9 by the University’s Board of Trustees, the Bachelor of Arts in human rights degree comes five years after creation of the Embrey Human Rights Program at SMU.

The undergraduate degree program officially begins in Spring 2012, but most SMU students will be allowed to apply past or current courses toward the degree, says Embrey Human Rights Program Director Rick Halperin. The human rights major will offer two interdisciplinary tracks: one on gender and human rights, the other on public policy and human rights.

“I have always believed that if you appealed to the better nature in people, and then offered them opportunities to put their passion into practice, that this degree would be a natural,” Halperin says. “It is beyond my comprehension that programs like this do not exist throughout this country, but at least it now exists here.”

The only other U.S. universities to offer human rights majors are Bard College and Columbia University/Barnard College in New York, the University of Dayton in Ohio and Trinity College in Connecticut.

The new major is the result of Dallas philanthropist Lauren Embrey‘s travel with Halperin’s study group to Polish Holocaust sites in December 2005. Embrey, then enrolled in SMU’s Master of Liberal Arts program, returned from the trip determined to share her life-changing experience. In the six years since the trip, sisters Lauren and Gayle Embrey and the Embrey Family Foundation have committed substantial financial support for the Embrey Human Rights Program, which began in 2006, and the minor, which followed in 2007.

“The human rights major at SMU creates the ability to educate and broaden awareness, to challenge prevailing world views and to promote a rights-based society that minimizes injustice,” Lauren Embrey says. “We are also proud that the program can be seen as a model for other human rights education programs, and that it offers varied programming open to the community beyond SMU.”

The Embrey Foundation’s vision “will allow the major to be a signature program for SMU and for Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences,” says Dean William Tsutsui. “It not only will prepare students to understand human rights issues around the world, but also will equip them with the skills necessary to make a real difference and effect meaningful change,” he says. “The graduates of this important and timely new major will be the leaders of the next generation of global human rights advocates.”

So far 200 students have either formally declared the minor or are taking courses toward declaring the minor in the fastest growing program at SMU. Halperin, a nationally known human rights activist and former two-time chair of Amnesty International, says many students already have expressed interest in pursuing the new major, which will consist of 30 hours of traditional coursework, a minor in a related field and 12 hours of a foreign language.

> Read the full story from SMU News
> Visit the Embrey Human Rights Program homepage

September 16, 2011|News|

University commemorates 9/11 anniversary with events, reflection

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11, SMU will host a range of public events Sept. 7-11 to help the community find peace and meaning after that devastating day.

“Only by bringing our thoughts, feelings, prejudices and knowledge to the forefront can we resist those who would manipulate us,” says Rita Kirk, director of SMU’s Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility, overall sponsor of the events. “How we remember the events of that day is an important ethical choice.”

Kirk will moderate the panel discussion for “The Day the Whole World Watched” on Sunday, Sept. 11.

“What happened on 9/11 was horrific, but that doesn’t get us any closer to making a better world. We have to commit ourselves to making it happen,” says Rick Halperin, director of SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program, which will host the “Ending the Cycles of Violence” discussion on Friday, Sept. 9. “This demands peoples’ awareness and involvement in creating a new narrative based on respect, dignity, manners, tolerance and healing.”

Community members are invited to add their thoughts and memories to the Maguire Center’s online journal,, where they can also scroll through entries from SMU’s original set of remembrance journals created on Sept. 11, 2001.

Above, SMU student Christina Rancke, whose father died on 9/11, shares her memories. Click the YouTube screen to watch, or open this link to see Christina Rancke’s video in a new window. video

> Find a complete schedule of events at SMU News
> Learn more at the Maguire Center’s “9/11 Remembered” site

September 7, 2011|Calendar Highlights, News|

Faculty in the News: May 19, 2011

Cal Jillson, Political Science, Dedman College, discussed retired Army General and Iraq commander Ricardo Sanchez’ run for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Kay Bailey Hutchison with KERA Public Radio May 11, 2011. He also talked about President Obama’s efforts to resurrect and reframe the discussion on immigration for an article published in Politico May 10, 2011.

Mike Davis, Finance, Cox School of Business, talked about Texas House Bill 3790, which would suspend the back-to-school weekend tax break, with Star Newspapers May 7, 2011.

SMU archaeologist Metin ErenBill Tsutsui, dean of Dedman College and an expert on Japan, discussed that nation’s changing attitude toward nuclear power with ScienceInsider May 11, 2011.

Rick Halperin, director of the Embrey Human Rights Program, discussed the moral and ethical side of U.S. reaction to the death of Osama bin Laden with CNN May 2, 2011.

Dennis Simon, Political Science, Dedman College, talked about former President George W. Bush’s low profile concerning Osama bin Ladin’s death for an Associated Press story that appeared in several publications, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on May 5, 2011.

William Lawrence, Dean, Perkins School of Theology, discussed the various forms of redemption in the context of the Easter holiday with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution April 23, 2011.

Metin Eren (left), Anthropology, Dedman College, discussed his research into ancient tool-making on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio show “Quirks & Quarks with Bob McDonald” April 16, 2011.

May 19, 2011|Faculty in the News|

Human Rights Program hosts discussion on U.S. women’s rights April 28

A panel of experts will discuss emerging encroachments on U.S. women’s rights at the next presentation of SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program.

“Under Fire: Women’s Rights in the U.S.” is cosponsored by the Embrey Family Foundation and will take place 7:30-9 p.m. Thursday, April 28, 2011 in McCord Auditorium, 306 Dallas Hall.

Rick Halperin, director of the Embrey Human Rights Program in SMU’s Dedman College, will moderate a panel that includes:

Event parking will be available in the Daniel Avenue lot behind Dallas Hall. For more information, call 214-768-8347.

April 28, 2011|Calendar Highlights, News|
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