Ashland University Spectrum Event to Feature ‘Turning Away from Hate’ Program
Ashland University’s second spring Spectrum event will feature Tom Leyden, a former neo-Nazi white supremacist activist and recruiter who is now teaching tolerance. Leyden will present a program titled “Turning Away from Hate” on Feb. 23 at 7:30 p.m. in the Alumni Room of the John C. Myers Convocation Center.
The cost is $5 for general admission, $1 for Ashland University students with I.D. and $3 for Ashland University faculty and staff. Tickets can be purchased at the Ashland University Box Office in the Center for the Arts, Monday through Friday from 12‐6 p.m., or by calling 419-289-5125.
After 15 years as a neo‐Nazi white supremacist activist and recruiter, Tom "TJ" Leyden experienced a profound change of heart, turned away from hate and began teaching tolerance.
Leyden grew up in a closely‐knit Irish‐Catholic family in Fontana, Calif. Life began to unravel for him when his parents got divorced, and he began listening to punk rock and venting his rage by slam‐dancing and fighting at weekend concerts. His violent behavior attracted the attention of local skinheads, and soon he started his own skinhead group in Redlands, Calif., at the age of 15. At 21, Leyden joined the Marines and his role as a leading recruiter, organizer and propagandist for the white supremacist movement increased. In all, he spent more than 15 years as a leader in the neo‐Nazi movement, even marrying a woman deeply committed to the movement and raising two young sons in a hate‐filled environment.
Today, he has turned away from the hatred that defined his life for so long. He is the one of few known former skinheads who has left the movement and retained his own name. He worked for more than five years for the Simon Wiesenthal Center teaching on the culture of hate and the importance in fighting against it. He was invited by President Clinton to be a featured speaker at the White House Conference on Hate, and he has trained at the Pentagon, the FBI, military bases, and for numerous law enforcement agencies.
Although he receives regular death threats and must take extraordinary measures to protect himself from his former friends, Leyden is committed to being a fierce advocate for the importance of appreciating the differences in all people, as evidenced in his program, “Turning Away from Hate.”
The co-sponsors for the Leyden event include Ashland Center for Nonviolence, and the University’s Black Student Union, Minority Student Services and the Department of Student Life.
Ashland University is a mid-sized, private institution conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.