Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Embrey Family Foundation and Human Rights

The story below appeared in The Daily Campus, the student newspaper at Southern Methodist University.  It reports on the groundbreaking work of the Embrey Family Foundation in estabishing the Chair of Human Rights at SMU. 

My dad and Lindsay Embrey were business partners for over 40 years in Richardson.  The investment of the foundation in this sort of work inspires me.  The Embrey Family Foundation made a catalytic investment in the development of the "Opportunity Center" that Central Dallas Ministries is developing at Malcolm X and I-30 to the tune of a $1,000,000 program related investment.  . 

Enjoy the story!

Embrey expands program
By JESSICA HUSEMAN, Editor-in-Chief,
Published: Friday, September 10, 2010

The Embrey Human Rights program expanded into new offices in Clements Hall this year and is now the fastest growing program at SMU, thanks to the donation from the Embrey Family Foundation. .

In an interview with The Daily Campus, Lauren Embrey explained that her inspiration for facilitating the million-dollar donation was Professor Rick Halperin’s History of Human Rights class, which she took while pursuing her Master’s degree at SMU.

“I learned that information, and I knew I had an excellent, amazing education, and I knew that you’ve never heard of any of this information before. That was really the catalyst,” Embrey said.

At the conclusion of the course, Embrey decided to go on the course’s annual trip to visit death-camp sites in Poland with Halperin and bring her two sons, both freshmen at the time–one in high school and one in college.

“I don’t think they really knew what to expect,” Embrey said, whose sons were extremely receptive to the idea of spending their winter holiday on the trip.

“We spent Christmas together, the snowy Polish Christmas, traveling in a bus to different concentration and death-camp sites,” Embrey said. “It was a profound experience to be there and to feel the energy of these places. It gets you at a pretty deep level.”

As soon as she returned from the trip, Embrey set the wheels in motion to expand the Human Rights Program through the help of her family’s foundation. She set up a meeting with her sister Gale Embrey, Halperin and Pat Davis to discuss its expansion.

Once they had mapped out their vision, Embrey brought the idea to the Embrey Family Foundation’s Board of Directors, which quickly approved her suggestion.

“We have a very, very supportive board that understands our vision and what we want to do,” Embrey said. “So it passed through rather quickly.”

Four years later, the program has become a mainstay on the SMU campus. Embrey believes that the program fills a gap left open by the educational system. “In a sense, it was, ‘how dare my educational system think that they don’t have to give me this information, and that this information isn’t important to me as a human being,’” Embrey said.

She said the program is the perfect way to address the need for more education on human rights and that the applied version of classroom learning used by Halperin is the best way to meet this need.

“Sitting and reading a book is fine,” Embrey said. “But when you actually experience something on top of that, it compounds it and reinforces it and makes it stronger.”

Embrey wants the program to continue to expand and to become more integrated into the SMU student body.

Lauren Embrey’s father, Lindsay Embrey, founded the Embrey Family Foundation in 2004, and its original goal didn’t necessarily include the promotion of human rights.

"Dad was always big in education, and we believe that as well, and we have held to that,” Embrey said. “He pretty much formed it and left it to Gale and I to decide its direction.”

That organization has become a human rights-focused foundation which funds human rights education opportunities into which the SMU Human Rights Program fits neatly.

Embrey says she is thankful that expanding the program has been a relatively easy process. She says that the administration and the staff at SMU have been welcoming of her ideas, and she is confident that, with their help, the program will continue to improve and expand.

“We are just really grateful that it is a partnership, and that people understand our vision and are with us on it,” Embrey said.

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