Professor Morton Winston of Timonium - was a human rights scholar who also worked for Amnesty International.
Professor Morton Winston of Timonium - was a human rights scholar who also worked for Amnesty International. (HANDOUT)

Morton Winston of Timonium, a human-rights scholar who traveled from South Africa to Denmark to advance social justice and who shared his lessons with his college students, died Jan. 13 while on vacation with his wife. He was 67.

Dr. Winston and his wife, Sally, had traveled to Peru to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary. He suffered a heart attack while hiking through the jungle.

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His death was abrupt but fit an adventurous life filled with travel and curiosity, two of his daughters said.

"He died walking along a jungle path, in knee-high mud boots, with a tour guide, listening to howler monkeys and learning things," said Molly Winston of College Park.

Another daughter, Maggie Winston, of Montreal, Canada, said, "He died doing what he wanted."

Their father's career in academics blended with his volunteer work for Amnesty International. He taught philosophy at the College of New Jersey for about three decades, and he split time between homes in New Jersey and Timonium.

He also led Amnesty International's campaign against South African apartheid in the 1980s. He held leadership roles in Amnesty International and expanded its mission to hold corporations as well as governments accountable for human rights abuses.

"He was unable to stay silent in the face of injustice and was a passionate advocate on behalf of survivors," said Ann Burroughs, chairwoman of Amnesty International USA, in a statement.

A big, bearded man with a loud voice and louder laugh, Dr. Winston was more tie-dye than suit-and-tie, a quality that endeared him to students.

"He looked a little bit like Jerry Garcia," said Dr. John Pollock, a professor at the College of New Jersey. "He was a beloved mentor."

Born in Philadelphia to Carl Winston, who started a trucking business, and Ida Winston, a homemaker, Morton Emanuel Winston was the eldest of three children.

He studied philosophy and psychology at Swarthmore College in the late 1960s. His social activism was born during those years of protests over the Vietnam War, said his wife, a Baltimore psychologist.

After earning a master's degree in psychology and his doctorate in philosophy at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, he began four decades of teaching at University of Maryland, College Park, the Johns Hopkins University and in New Jersey. Meanwhile, his role grew with Amnesty International.

"He became interested in providing a solid philosophical and ethical underpinning for the fledgling international human rights movement," his wife said. "It came from a place deep in his heart and mind about what was right and wrong, and a belief that privilege is absolutely accompanied by an obligation to protect those less fortunate."

He served on an Amnesty International organizational committee and as treasurer. In 1995 and 2002, he was elected honorary chairman of the board of directors — all while raising three daughters with his wife in Timonium.

"When you met him, you didn't experience him as being overcommitted," Dr. Pollock said. "He always had time for everybody."

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He developed college courses examining genocide, environmental ethics, international relations and human rights on the New Jersey campus. He twice served as chair of the department of philosophy. He wrote often for scholarly journals, authored a textbook on human rights, and served on the editorial boards of Human Rights Quarterly and the Journal of Human Rights. His published works have been cited 988 times, according to the college in New Jersey.

"He was an activist, too, and that was important and something that was attractive to students," said Dr. Richard Kamber, also a professor at The College of New Jersey. "He didn't just talk about stuff. He wanted to be involved in it, and do whatever he could to make the world a better place."

Dr. Winston won fellowships under the Fulbright Scholar Program to research issues of corporate responsibility in Denmark and human rights in Thailand. He lectured one term at the University of Durban-Westville in South Africa.

"His goal was always to travel to more countries than his current age," Molly Winston, said.

He died three days before his 68th birthday; Peru was his 70th country.

"His mind was big; he never stopped looking for truth," Molly Winston said. "He read everything. He just loved good conversation. ... He had opinions about everything, but they were backed up with facts. He knew what he was talking about — people respected him."

He relished black licorice, figs, dark chocolate and good meals, though he wasn't much of a cook, she said. He enjoyed rocker Bruce Springsteen and zydeco music and once tried —unsuccessfully, his daughter added — to learn blues piano. A tinkerer, he once built his own bicycle, and enjoyed riding trails through Baltimore County.

He preferred the U.S. Open to the Super Bowl, and enjoyed both detective novels and articles on international relations.

"He could do high culture and he could do low culture, and without judgment," Molly Winston said.

Sally Winston remains in Peru, working to untangle a bureaucratic process involving the foreign and U.S. governments, to bring home her husband's body.

"My mom said it can best be described as a Kafka play," Molly Winston said. "Her immediate reaction was to tell Dad all about it."

Funeral services will be private.

In addition to his wife and daughters, he is survived by another daughter, Carla Winston of Victoria, British Columbia; a sister, Lucy Jablon of Philadelphia; and a brother, Steven Winston of Philadelphia.

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