LETTER TO THE EDITOR: LARAMIE DAILY BOOMERANG
To the People of Laramie and the University of Wyoming:
Campus flags have returned to their normal height and we see few traces of the yellow armbands of peace and nonviolence, but the tragic events of October will never be far from our thoughts.
The death of Matthew Shepard rocked the nation, and during the next few months I expect to see a steady, but smaller, stream of magazine articles and television programs unearthing every remaining detail of the case and the lives of the individuals involved. They no doubt will also continue probing the psyche of Wyoming and the community of Laramie.
One constant in all of the reporting about Matthew's death has been praise for the way in which the University of Wyoming and the city of Laramie responded to this tragedy. Though I have lived here for only 18 months, I have come to know and appreciate the kindness and generosity of the people of Laramie and the unswerving dedication that the faculty, staff and administration of this University have for our students. During this most difficult time, you were nothing short of magnificent, helping Matthew's friends and classmates deal with their grief while channeling anger and hurt in positive ways.
I want to personally thank the city and county officials and Laramie residents who demonstrated their concern for Matthew and the Shepard family as well as their commitment to the principles of peace, nonviolence, tolerance and justice. You showed the world that hate is, indeed, not a Laramie value. Special thanks are due Mayor Trudy McCraken, City Manager Kelly Arnold, Police Chief Bill Ware, and County Sheriff Gary Puls who worked arm in arm with the University from the first word of the attack upon Matt through the University memorial service.
I want to thank our faculty, staff and administrators for demonstrating that in times of crisis they are capable of rising to an even greater level of service to our students than is their usual standard of excellence. My Vice President for Student Affairs, Jim Hurst, worked tirelessly with our superb crisis management team consisting of Vice President for Administration and Finance Dan Baccari, Counseling Center Director Andrew Turner, UW Police Chief Bob Leseberg and Sgt. Kevin White, Office of Student Life Director Tom Mattheus, Housing Director Deb Coffin, News Service Manager Jim Kearns, Staff Senate Chair Karen Reasoner, Division of Student Affairs Coordinator Kim Reichert, Wyoming Union Director Bill Fruth and his staff, and UW Attorney Rod Lang. This group spent many long and emotional hours to make sure that the needs of the Shepard family were kept first on our agenda. University Relations Director Jay Fromkin and his staff managed the literally thousands of media and e-mail inquiries and comments directed our way with professionalism, sensitivity, and grace.
Then-Vice President for Academic Affairs Ken Griffin and Faculty Senate President Bernita Quoss recognized in the organization of the Prexy's Pasture teach-ins that amidst tragedy there are teachable moments we cannot let pass by. My thanks as well to the faculty members who took the time in this volunteer effort: Karen Nicholas, Judy Antell, Maggi Murdock, Graham Baxendale, Fred Homer, Peggy Cooney, Sally Conklin, Klaus Hanson, Susanna Goodin, Paul Flesher, Gary Hampe and Patsy Taylor. Mary Meyer of the UW College of Education headed up a small army of dedicated folks who pulled together a meaningful memorial ceremony in just a few short and tumultuous days. They include Robin Chance and students of Canterbury House, Arch Thomas and Mike Pritchard of Physical Plant, Associate Vice President for Institutional Advancement Molly and John Williams, College of Arts and Sciences Dean Ollie Walter and Alphonso Simpson and the BASIC Chorale.
And I want to particularly thank our students. They were instrumental in helping to organize the candlelight vigil at the campus Newman Center under the wise and caring guidance of Father Roger Schmit; and " Remembering Matthew," on Prexy's Pasture the afternoon of Matt's death; the campus/community memorial service; and the open forum for members of the community to help deal with their many, sometimes conflicting emotions. We were blessed with extraordinary young people who responded to the call for leadership including ASUW President Jesus Rios; ASUW Vice President Stephanie Olson; ASUW execs like Rob Spaulding, Angelica Vialpando and Tim Olson; and LGBTA Chair Jim Osborn. They and hundreds of others from the Greek Community to our student-athletes demonstrated why students truly represent the heart of our University.
Together, this community withstood the onslaught of national and international media with grace and dignity. I have never been more sure that my decision to move my family to Laramie was the right one.
The killing of Matthew Shepard was a terrible crime. But if any good can be said to have come from it, I think it is that we are a stronger, closer, safer community now than we were in September. People from throughout the University and the city forged bonds of commitment that this tragedy never be repeated. Today, we know each other and ourselves far better than we could have imagined. And people throughout the nation and the world should know Laramie, not as the place where Matthew died, but rather as the place where so many people cared.
Philip L. Dubois
University of Wyoming
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