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Mother of murdered Wyoming student, Matthew Shepard, to speak Feb. 3 on APSU main campus

On Oct. 8, 1998, Judy and Dennis Shepard were awakened in the middle of the night by a telephone call no parent should ever have to receive.
What they heard changed their lives forever.

Their eldest son, Matthew, was in a coma after having been brutally attackedbecause he was gay. The distraught parents flew from Saudi Arabia where Dennis works to Fort Collins, Colo., and met their younger son, Logan, to visit Matthew in the hospital. On Oct. 12, Matthew passed away.
On Oct. 8, 1998, Judy and Dennis Shepard were awakened in the middle of the night by a telephone call no parent should ever have to receive.
What they heard changed their lives forever.

Their eldest son, Matthew, was in a coma after having been brutally attackedbecause he was gay. The distraught parents flew from Saudi Arabia where Dennis works to Fort Collins, Colo., and met their younger son, Logan, to visit Matthew in the hospital. On Oct. 12, Matthew passed away.

Judy Shepard shares the story of Matthew and how the tragedy has focused the nation's attention on the growing epidemic of hate crimes when she speaks at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 3 in Clement Auditorium on the main campus of Austin Peay State University as part of the annual Student Affairs Unity Celebration. The event is free and open to the public.

In 2009, Judy Shepard wrote the New York Times best-seller, “The Meaning of Matthew — My Son's Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed,” a heartwrenching memoir that openly expresses a mother's account of the real meaning of her son's life and, ultimately, his tragic death. In praise of Shepard, the late Sen. Edward Kennedy said, “She's a true profile in courage and America will be a fairer nation because of her.”

Copies of “The Meaning of Matthew” will be available for sale at the event, and Shepard will sign copies of the book following her presentation.

The play and subsequent critically-acclaimed HBO movie, “The Laramie Project,” was written about Matthew and is performed frequently to draw attention to gay rights and the ending of hate crimes. “The Laramie Project” was recently performed locally at the Roxy Theater, Clarksville.

Judy Shepard recently joined President Obama at the signing ceremony of The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which protects individuals — regardless of their sexual orientation and identification — from violence.

Judy Shepard uses her grief over her son's death to make a difference — to do what she can to ensure that no other parent will have to endure what she has. She is now speaking to audiences nationwide about what they can do to make their schools and communities safer for everyone, regardless of race, sex, religion or sexual orientation.

“I feel Matthew with me every day, or I would not be able to do this,” she said. “We just hope we're doing what he would want us to do. We realize that we must use the voice his death has given us. I realize that what I can try and accomplish is to make people aware. We get so complacent in our lives that we forget not everyone is safe, and frequently, it is our children who aren't safe.”

In the aftermath of their son's death, Judy and Dennis Shepard started the Matthew Shepard Foundation (http://www.matthewshepard.org) to help carry on Matthew's legacy by embracing the just causes their son had championed. This includes working for gay and lesbian equality and helping to prevent hate crimes.

For more information about Shepard's speaking event, call the APSU Office of Student Affairs at (931) 221-7341. -- Melony Shemberger