The University of Iowa

Rex Honey (1945-2010)

October 25th, 2010

From the CLAS website

Rex Honey

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences mourns the loss of Rex Honey, Professor of Geography.  “Rex epitomized the faculty member whose teaching, research, and service were focused on issues he was passionately committed to–social justice, international education, and human rights,” said Marc Armstrong, chair of Geography.  “He developed courses and led faculty seminars on these topics, and spoke frequently on these issues both at international conferences and in the Iowa City schools and other local venues.”

Rex was a co-founder of the UI Center for Human Rights and helped to launch its new certificate program; he served as the Center’s associate director from 1999 to 2006. He also served as director of the UI’s Crossing Borders Graduate Training Program (2006-10), the African Studies Program, and the Global Studies Program (now the BA Program in International Studies).

Professor Gregory Hamot, Director of the UI Human Rights Center, said, “Rex was intricately involved in many programs that served the university, the state, and the world. His students were devoted to him because of his unwavering dedication to their professional and personal growth. His many activities in Iowa and abroad with university students and with local teachers always looked to human rights as a critical aspect of a well-rounded education.”

Rex served as Chair of the CLAS Faculty Assembly, and was an elected member of the CLAS Educational Policy Committee, where he made manifest his strong commitment to student success in undergraduate education. At the time of his death he was serving as director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Geography. He received the Outstanding Faculty Member Award from International Programs in 2008 and was recognized as Community Mentor by the Global Issues Network of Iowa City in 2004.

Rex’s lifetime research interest concerned the geographical organization of space for public administration. This work spanned the time from his papers on the United Kingdom’s reorganization of local government administration in the 1960s—the subject of his doctoral dissertation at the University of Minnesota—to a current project with the administrative reorganization of Iowa School Districts, which was work supported by the Iowa Department of Education.

His other recent research interests in political geography included grassroots political organizations and social identity in developing nations, universal standards and culturally specific conceptualizations of human rights, and state policy as a factor in development. He twice received Fulbright Senior Scholar Awards (1987 and 1991-92), and served as a Fulbright-Hays Group Project Leader in Nigeria in 1999. He served his profession as Chair of the Human Rights Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers and Secretary of the International Geographical Union’s Commission on Geography and Public Administration.

A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m., Thursday, October 28, at Lensing Funeral and Cremation Service, Iowa City. A reception will follow in the Kirkwood Room, IMU. Visitation will be Wednesday from 4 to 7 p.m. at the funeral home. Rex’s family has asked that, in lieu of flowers, memorials be directed to the University of Iowa Foundation for the Center for Human Rights.

Comments from other colleagues

The passing of Professor Rex Honey will impact the university in untold ways.  He was intricately involved in many programs that served the university, the state, and the world.

Rex was co-founder of the UI Center for Human Rights, along with Burns Weston, Dorothy Paul, and Gina Crosheck.  Over the years, his work to sustain the Center’s position as a vital university entity was invaluable.  For example, he helped to found the newly-launched human rights certificate program that the Center now maintains, and he served on its Faculty Advisory Board.  This is but one example of his many contributions to human rights on campus.

His students were doggedly loyal to him because of his unwavering dedication to their professional and personal growth.  His many activities in Iowa and abroad with university students and with local teachers always looked to human rights as a critical aspect of a well-rounded education.  He will be missed by many, many people past and present who benefitted mightily from his work and his friendship.

We have lost a dear colleague, a defender of human rights, and a true friend.

With deep sadness,
Greg Hamot, director of the UI Center for Human Rights

Without Rex, the Center for Human Rights might not have come into being at all. At the very beginning, he generously gave it a home in his Global Studies office and later worked hard to help get it established within IP where it has been ever since. Completely committed to the promotion and protection of human rights at home and abroad, he was the consummate team player for the cause, and for this reason among many will be sorely missed.

– Burns Weston, the Bessie Dutton Murray Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus, Senior Scholar, and UI Center for Human Rights founding director

I have known Rex Honey as a passionate person, passionate about his family and about his work as a professor, mentor, and colleague in the Geography Department and in the Association of American Geographers. He was a world traveler, eager to understand how life was in many parts of the world. He became an expert on the interplay of cultural patterns and human rights, always seeking to understand the role of human rights objectives in the actual living patterns of people.

Rex’s interest in geography, originally in the analysis of jurisdictions, grew to consider the interplay of ethics, justice and the use of space, gradually merging into concerns with environmental justice.

We shared many times together, whether in his office talking over my dissertation or issues in the world of geography, at conferences, or on the way to and from these conferences. He was always full of drive, hope, a sense of youthfulness, an ability to provide leadership, and an amazing capacity to recall detail.

I recall going together to the state Capitol to speak out against the death penalty. At that point, I was a minister, Rex a professor. He delivered the more stirring message, I delivered the more factual one.

I recall going to Hawaii for an AAG conference. He arranged for a suite large enough for my wife and I, his father-in-law, and his wife and himself. On Easter morning we drove from sea level to the top of the 12,000 foot mountain on Maui to see the sunrise. We did but just for a split second as it was a very cloudy day. Still, it was a major adventure.

My first class with Rex was on the geography of Europe. He set us loose on a country we were to become “experts” in. I chose Yugoslavia just as it was breaking apart. It was a great experience digging into its past and its politics.

Rex had been a quarterback in his youth, and always remained a quarterback, calling signals and rallying his team to play the best they could. He always seemed to be at the top of his game.

I have benefited greatly from his life, and grieve greatly his untimely death.

– Dr. Jeremy Brigham, adjunct assistant professor, UI International Programs

When I think of Rex’s contributions to International Programs, I think above all about the extraordinary dedication he had to students.  Before our current International Studies B.A. degree was created in the early 2000s, Rex was a founder and devoted supporter of global studies.  Since the creation of the International Studies, he has mentored more undergraduate students than any other faculty in any department at the University.  The energy and enthusiasm he put into his work with students–both graduate and undergraduate–was without measure.  Faculty colleagues will miss Rex tremendously.  But when I think of the generations of students he has guided through the University of Iowa, the truly exceptional weight of his contributions to the UI come into real focus.

– Downing Thomas, Associate Provost and Dean of International Programs

As a scholar, teacher, and colleague, Rex Honey attended to so many thematic and programmatic needs that it is difficult to imagine how the University of Iowa will cover these areas without him. He was exceedingly unselfish with his time and energies, and invested them where he saw the greatest need. Although not trained as an Africanist, Rex stepped up to lead the African Studies Program several times over the years when no one else was in a position to do so, and he routinely taught courses in Middle Eastern and African Studies on an overload basis because he felt it important that they continue to be offered. He believed in and exemplified interdisciplinary collaboration, and he saw education as training to fight poverty, injustice and intolerance.

Edward Miner, International Studies Bibliographer, University Libraries