SUNY Chancellor Johnson Leads Conversation with Judy and Dennis Shepard

November 7, 2019

Parents of Matthew Shepard to Discuss Son’s Legacy, Attempts to Roll Back LGBTQ Rights, and the Recent Uptick in Hate Crimes Across the Nation

New York City – SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson will lead a conversation tonight with activists Judy and Dennis Shepard, the parents of Matthew Shepard, at SUNY Global Center in Manhattan. The Shepards will discuss their son’s legacy, their brave and exhaustive advocacy efforts, and what is still at stake today in protecting the rights of the LGBTQ community. "Erasing Hate," the inaugural SUNY thought leaders event, can be streamed live beginning at 6:30 p.m.

"Dennis and Judy Shepard are national heroes," said SUNY Board of Trustee Richard Socarides, who will give remarks at the event. "I am deeply grateful for the work they’ve done to promote freedom, equality, and basic fairness for all. As a young White House aide at the time of Matthew’s death, I was profoundly moved by their ability to turn tragedy into hope."

"The Shepard’s bravery in the face of unimaginable grief, and their determination to turn pain and loss into advocacy and action have made our world a safer, more inclusive, fair, and accepting place," said SUNY Chancellor Johnson. "Their resolve is profoundly inspiring. I am looking forward to an impactful and personal conversation that highlights the continued importance of their work today."

"We are simply doing the work Matt would be doing if he were still here," said Judy Shepard. "Our years of traveling the world and creating dialogue through opportunities like this, has proven that Matt’s story has the power to inspire others to join the fight, which is so critical today, since it seems we have stepped back decades over the last three years. But we know this is a temporary situation – so we must remain persistent and continue our efforts to replace hate with understanding, compassion and acceptance."

Ten years ago this fall, then-President Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law. The Shepards lobbied publicly for the passage of this landmark legislation, which expanded federal hate-crimes law to include crimes motivated by gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability. The Shepards also formed the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which challenges and empowers communities to identify and address hate living within their schools, neighborhoods, and homes in hopes of fostering a fairer, more just world.

Around the state, students on various SUNY campuses will come together to watch the discussion and submit questions that will contribute to the dialogue. All are welcome to view the livestream at

About The Matthew Shepard Foundation

The Matthew Shepard Foundation’s longstanding mission is to erase hate by replacing it with understanding, compassion and acceptance. Through local, regional and national outreach, we empower individuals to find their voice to create change and challenge communities to identify and address hate that lives within their schools, neighborhoods and homes. Our work is an extension of Matt’s passion to foster a more caring and just world. We share his story and embody his vigor for civil rights to change the hearts and minds of others to accept everyone as they are.

About SUNY Thought Leaders Series

“Erasing Hate” is the inaugural conversation of SUNY’s thought leaders series from its Global Center in Manhattan. Special viewing events will take place live across the state at SUNY Delhi, SUNY Oswego, Old Westbury, SUNY Plattsburgh, and SUNY Polytechnic Institute at Albany (Utica campus to rebroadcast at a later date). The series is meant to lead discussion on global issues impacting students and all citizens. The event is open to the public.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2023, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit

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