UI Center for Human Rights cofounder Rex Honey dies

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By Lee Hermiston, The Iowa City Press-Citizen

Almost 12 years ago, University of Iowa law professor Burns Weston called up his colleague Rex Honey, who was chair of the Global Studies program Weston had previously organized.

Weston said he asked Honey if his office, which at the time was in the old law school building, had an extra desk and phone jack. Honey said it did. Then Weston, who organized a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the year before, asked Honey if they could put a sign on his door that said Center for Human Rights.

“That’s how it started,” Weston said. “That’s what we did.”

Weston, Honey and Dorothy Paul co-founded the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights in 1999. Honey, 65, died Saturday at his home in North Liberty.

While those who worked with Honey, a professor in the Department of Geography, said his death will be a blow to the university and the campus community, Weston said his colleague’s death will spur the UICHR to strengthen its commitment to its mission of promoting and protecting human rights at home and abroad.

“All of us will work that much harder to keep this alive because we want the memory of what he did to stay alive,” Weston said. “Ironically, it may make the center be even more dedicated to fulfilling its mission.”

Those who worked with Honey said the dedication and passion he showed for human rights extended to his other academic pursuits.

“He was always very enthusiastic and very committed,” said geography professor Gerry Rushton. “He was really interested in involving students.”

Rushton said Honey went out of his way to establish personal relationships with his students. Going beyond just learning their names, Rushton said Honey would ask his students about their families and invite them to spend time with his family.

Geography department chair Marc Armstrong said Honey was a political geographer who studied developing countries. He had a particular interest in Africa, Armstrong said. Honey traveled extensively, visiting five continents, according to his faculty page. Armstrong said previously helped teach the UI’s 3-week winter semester program in India and was planning to return this winter.

“Rex was a bundle of energy,” Armstrong said. “He was a very passionate and committed individual. He cared very deeply about students and was also a very active member of the university community.”

Armstrong said Honey was a “complete faculty member,” teaching both large and small courses at all levels.

“It’s going to be very difficult to replace him because of all the things he did,” he said. “He was just a very active, gregarious person. He’s just going to be sorely missed.”

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