Ten Years Later, the Light Shines On

In the mind’s eye, Amy Biehl is still 26. She is still exuberant, irrepressible, oozing energy. And 10 years after her death, she is still a powerful influence for change.

Biehl, ’89, was beaten and stabbed to death near Cape Town, South Africa, on August 25, 1993, by a gang of black youths whose misdirected rage fell upon the Fulbright scholar studying the role of women in South Africa’s transition to a democratic government. “Amy was the bravest soul I’ve ever known,” recalled Stephen Stedman, ’79, MA ’85, PhD ’88, in Stanford (“Hell on Wheels,” March 1994). Her death inspired books, an upcoming movie (former Stanford student Reese Witherspoon recently signed on to play Biehl) and a nonprofit foundation that carries on her advocacy work.

The Amy Biehl Foundation Trust works closely with Cape Town communities to provide after-school programs, job-skills training and HIV/AIDS education and prevention. “It’s not about Americans going in and saying ‘This is what needs to be done.’ It’s listening to the community and their needs,” says Linda Biehl, Amy’s mother, who established the foundation with her husband, Peter, who died in March.

Two of Amy’s murderers, who received amnesty, now work for the foundation. Linda Biehl says she still receives numerous letters from people touched by the power of redemption. Many of them are from children. “Amy’s story has been a catalyst to people who were barely born [when she died],” she notes.