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Mother of hate-crime victim Matthew Shepard to speak
Friday, September 05, 2008

Judy Shepard
Judy Shepard
Matthew Shepard
Matthew Shepard

Judy Shepard, mother of hate-crime victim Matthew Shepard, will bring her crusade for safer schools and communities for everyone, regardless of race, sex, religion or gender identity and expression, to SUNY Fredonia.

In an address to be presented Sunday, Sept. 14, at 7 p.m. at the Juliet J. Rosch Recital Hall, the mother-turned activist will explain how the tragedy of her son’s murder in 1998 spurred her campaign for justice and ultimately led to the founding of the Matthew Shepard Foundation to help carry on his legacy.

Matthew Shepard was a 21-year-old gay student at the University of Wyoming who was fatally attacked by two men because of his sexual orientation. He was robbed, severely beaten, tied to a fence in a remote area, and left to die. Two men pleaded guilty to felony murder and kidnapping charges and were both sentenced to two consecutive life terms.

The brutality of the crime and subsequent murder investigation drew extensive media coverage, including reports on ABC’s “20/20” newsmagazine, and led to efforts to include gay and lesbian individuals in hate-crime legislation. At the time of Matthew Shepard’s murder, Wyoming had no criminal statute that addressed hate crimes.

Ms. Shepard has become an activist speaker and appeared in two Human Rights Campaign advertisements advocating an end to anti-gay violence and promoting a greater understanding of gay issues. An active member of PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays), she urges officials to make schools safer for gay students by promoting tolerance and diversity.

“We’re very excited to present a woman so dedicated to changing the acceptance of diversity on campuses and in communities,” said Erin Mroczka, assistant director of Campus Life at SUNY Fredonia. “She does only a handful of lectures and appearances throughout the year, so we were very fortunate to get her.”

A question-and-answer session is included in Ms. Shepard’s appearance, which is co-sponsored by Spectrum Entertainment Board and Pride Alliance, both SUNY Fredonia student organizations.

Ms. Shepard’s lecture also ties in with this year’s convocation theme of human rights and responsibilities at SUNY Fredonia, Ms. Mroczka said.

Tickets, at $2 for students and $3 for the general public, are available at the Rockefeller Arts Center Box Office, located in its temporary space within the lobby of Marvel Theatre. Tickets can be purchased in person, online at www.fredonia.edu/tickets or by calling 716-673-3501.

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