October 12, 2005

Judy Shepard to speak at SIUC on Oct. 19

by Pete Rosenbery


CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Judy Shepard, who lost her son in a senseless gay-hate murder seven years ago, is speaking next week at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Judy Shepard will present a lecture at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 19, in the Student Center Ballrooms. Her appearance is part of Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender History Month.

Admission is free. The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, SIUC's Student Development Multicultural Programs and Services, the Saluki Rainbow Network, and Student Center Special Programs and Center, are sponsoring the lecture.

Shepard's son, Matthew, was beaten by two men and left for dead in freezing temperatures near Laramie, Wyo., in October 1998. Matthew, who was 21 at the time, died five days later.

"Matthew Shepard's shocking death gave birth to his mother's crusade against hatred that can destroy and even end lives," said institute Director Mike Lawrence. "We believe Mrs. Shepard's presentation here can and will make a positive difference by heightening sensitivity to prejudice, changing some attitudes and encouraging more of us to combat the prejudice that poisons our society."

Shepard and her husband, Dennis, used the grief over their oldest son's murder to establish the Matthew Shepard Foundation – which works for gay and lesbian equality, hate crime legislation, and raising awareness using programs developed by the Foundation. Shepard speaks to people about what they can do as individuals and communities to make the world a more accepting place for everyone regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, gender identity and expression.

All proceeds from Shepard's speaking engagements go to support the non-profit foundation.

Paulette Curkin, SIUC Student Development coordinator, said she hopes Shepard's appearance "will help people understand that hate and bias is on a continuum."

"Certainly what happened to her son is on the extreme end but what happened in the residence halls is along the same continuum in that we need to take time to understand each other and respect each other, particularly as a University community," said Curkin, who also serves as voluntary advisor for the Saluki Rainbow Network.

Curkin has previously heard Judy Shepard speak.

"She brings a very compelling story – as a mother and just as a human being," Curkin said. "It humanizes what hate can do and the pain that it can bring. I think that it is a wonderful opportunity for people to learn."

Developing citizen-leaders with global perspectives is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.

For more information, contact the institute at 618/453-4009 or visit http://www.siu.edu/~ppi/home.htm.