Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Judy Shepard to share "The Meaning of Matthew" Nov. 10 at Whitworth

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Just over 13 years ago, on Oct. 13, 1998, 21-year-old University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten and left to die in a remote area east of Laramie, Wyo. His murder sparked a national dialogue about anti-LGBT hate crimes that continues to this day. Determined to turn tragedy into a crusade for justice and to prevent others from suffering his fate, Matthew's mother, Judy Shepard, established The Matthew Shepard Foundation, which advocates for LGBT rights. Shepard, who travels the country telling her son's story, will present "The Meaning of Matthew," on Thursday, Nov. 10, at 7 p.m. in Cowles Auditorium at Whitworth University. Admission is free. For more information, please call (509) 777-4263.

Shepard has appeared in two Human Rights Campaign advertisements urging an end to anti-gay violence and promoting a greater understanding of gay issues. She also is involved with Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, through which she has written an open letter to schools across the country urging officials to make schools safer for gay students by promoting acceptance and diversity. She has also written a New York Times bestselling book, The Meaning of Matthew: My Son's Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed, an intimate look at how her life, and the fight for equal rights, changed when her son was killed.

The Matthew Shepard Foundation seeks to "replace hate with understanding, compassion, and acceptance" through education, outreach and advocacy programs. Speaking from a mother's perspective, Shepard urges audiences across the U.S. to make their schools and communities safe for everyone, regardless of race, sex, religion or gender identity and/or expression.

"As a university committed to honoring God, following Christ, and serving humanity, Whitworth desires to be on the front lines against all violent hate crimes, including those done out of fear and prejudice," says Casey Andrews, assistant professor of English at Whitworth. "Judy Shepard has been a tireless advocate for people who, like her son, have been assaulted because of their sexuality. Hearing her tell Matthew’s story is a chance for all members of the Whitworth and broader Spokane communities to become more informed about these important issues. We believe her presence on campus will help further our discussions about hate crimes, about violence toward LGBT people, and about how to be responsible, engaged citizens."

Shepard's visit to Whitworth is sponsored in part by 1962 Whitworth alum David E. Martin.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of nearly 3,000 students, offers 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

Contacts:

Julie Shanholtzer, program assistant, Speakers and Artists Series and psychology department, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4263 or jshanholtzer@whitworth.edu.

Emily Proffitt, public information officer, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or eproffitt@whitworth.edu.