City of Dayton welcomes death penalty activist, author


By: Mary Kate Dorr – Asst. A&E Editor

The University of Dayton will welcome Sister Helen Prejean, a death penalty activist and author of “Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty,” on Wednesday and Thursday as part of the Rites. Rights. Writes. event and Speaker Series. Prejean is not only an activist against capital punishment, but she is also a counselor for prisoners on death row.
During her visit to UD, she will participate in several events regarding the issue of capital punishment and continuing to educate and raise awareness about the death penalty, leading up to her speech at 7 p.m., Feb. 26 at the RecPlex, as part of the UD Speaker Series.
Prejean’s renowned novel “Dead Man Walking” follows her spiritual journey with inmate Patrick Sonnier, a convicted murderer and rapist, as he awaits his fate on death row in early 1980s Louisiana. She accompanied Sonnier to and witnessed his execution and later published her first novel on the experience. The novel has since been made into a movie, opera and play for students.
As part of the Dead Man Walking Series, UD is offering both the film and opera to students. The film played in October and Friday in Kennedy Union Ballroom. The opera will be performed at the Benjamin and Marion Schuster Performing Arts Center, located in downtown Dayton, Wednesday at 7 p.m. All first-year students can pick up their free tickets at the KU Box Office and upperclassmen can receive student discounts for the tickets.
Richard Chenoweth, the co-sponsor of the Sister Helen Prejean Series, encourages all students to take advantage of this opportunity presented through UD. Although it is an opera, Chenoweth compared the show to a Broadway performance.
“The opera shows you all sides of the issue and doesn’t make you choose sides,” Chenoweth said. “It allows you to think of where you stand instead of jamming a certain perspective down your throat.” Chenoweth believes that the opera is more compelling than the film as it lets the audience come to their own conclusions about capital punishment and the death penalty.
The performance is intended for mature audiences due to the heavy subject matter. The early scenes involve violent crime and slight nudity, but the show transitions to the religious journey between Prejean and Sonnier. Counselors will be available at the performance for students who are upset or disturbed by the performance’s material. However, the show is an engaging and spiritual performance despite the dark subject matter.
Not only is this an opportunity to experience the journey of Prejean and become more educated on a controversial issue, but both the opera and speaker event are opportunities to receive AVIATE/Path points for housing. For the opera, bussing will be available to transport students to and from the Schuster Center.
The 2014-2015 theme for the Speaker Serires is Faith & Reason. For more information regarding the Event and Speaker series, visit For more information about Prejean, visit

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