Remembering “The Legacy of Matthew Shepard” at Luther College

February 18, 2020

Judy Shepard, the mother of Matthew Shepard, will present the first of two "Hope Over Hate" lectures at Luther College at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 3, in the Main Hall of the Center for Faith and Life.

In October of 1998, Judy and Dennis Shepard lost their 21-year-old son, Matthew, to a murder motivated by anti-gay hate. His story has been told through film, plays, novels and musical compositions, and led directly to the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2009. It also inspired the Matthew Shepard Foundation, founded by Judy and Dennis Shepard who decided to turn their grief into action. The couple is dedicated to working toward the causes championed by Matthew during his life: social justice, diversity awareness and education, and equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

"Mrs. Shepard's message resonates with everyone who hears her speak," says Kristen Underwood, director of campus programming. "Whether or not you identify as LGBTQ, erasing hate is a universal cause. Judy Shepard speaks for LGBTQ youth, people of color, religious minorities or anyone who has experienced discrimination."

In connection to Judy Shepard's visit, Luther's Nordic Choir will perform Craig Hella Johnson's "Considering Matthew Shepard" at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on Friday, May 1, in the Noble Recital Hall of the Jenson-Noble Hall of Music. The 100-minute oratorio explores the life and legacy of Matthew Shepard through passages from his personal journal, interviews and writings from his parents, newspaper reports and additional texts by Johnson and Michael Dennis Browne.

"As I began listening to the work, it immediately transported me back to when I was 23 years old and had just begun my teaching career. All these years later, the story still speaks to me in a very profound way and I knew immediately I wanted to share it with Nordic Choir," said Dr. Andrew Last, director of choral activities and director of Nordic Choir. "I hope the audience will be challenged to think about what happened almost 22 years ago and find purpose and understanding from this story."

The second lecture in the "Hope Over Hate" series is Thursday, March 5 at 7 p.m. in the CFL Recital Hall. Pedro Lopez Vega '17 was a school boy in Postville, Iowa during the 2008 ICE raid, when 900 armed agents arrested 389 undocumented workers, his mother among them. Pedro's personal story is an inspiring one of resilience and triumph over trauma.

"Hope Over Hate" lectures are free and open to the public. The lecture series is sponsored by Campus Programing and the Center for Ethics and Public Engagement at Luther College, with involvement from the student organization, Luther Pride.

Tickets to the Nordic Choir performance "Considering Matthew Shepard" are now on sale at the Luther College Box Office, or online at

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