Matthew Joseph La Porte

Age: 20

Class: Freshman

Major: Political Science

Hometown: Dumont, NJ

High School: Carson Long Military Institute (New Bloomfield, PA) - Class of 2005

Died along with Prof. Couture-Nowak and 10 other students in French class.


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"Troubled Boy" Grew into a Corps Leader
(Roanoke Times Profile)

There’s a photograph of Matt La Porte on his MySpace page.

It’s years old, blurry, taken during his first semester at military school, back when his nickname was Turtle. The kid, head cocked forward, grins from within a bulky coat and peers through large round glasses at the camera. His friends have posted comments about how young he looks.

There’s another photograph of La Porte, this one on the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets Web page.

It’s a more recent picture and, in his crisp blue ROTC uniform, La Porte clearly grew up a lot in the time between. But his smile, which is as much eyes as it is mouth, remains more or less the same.

“In September, 1999, a troubled boy found himself here, thinking his parents should have given him another chance,” La Porte wrote of himself in the 2005 yearbook for Carson Long Military Institute, in New Bloomfield, Pa. “He thought he wouldn’t make it here, but he was stuck, so he had to make the best of the situation. He began to make friends … he started to make promotions.

“He learned how to be responsible for himself and, eventually, also for others.”

La Porte apparently brought those lessons with him to Virginia Tech, where he was a recipient of the Emerging Leader Scholarship from the Corps of Cadets. He joined the Air Force ROTC on campus, played tenor drums with the Highty-Tighties and was tapped for the Air Force Special Operations Prep Team.

According to Virginia Tech junior Jonathan Kaczanowski , who helped supervise La Porte’s initiation, joining AFSOPT is “a three-week-long process, like rushing a fraternity” except it involves pre-dawn runs, calisthenics and deep water confidence training and other strict dress and social requirements.

“It’s very intense, lots of physical activity,” said Corinthian Kelly , a junior who was in a band company with La Porte. “A lot of people tend not to complete it, but he definitely finished it up strong.”

Kaczanowski said AFSOPT training is designed to test the limits of the candidates’ capabilities and La Porte, he said, “never complained. He just did it. He had mental toughness.”

La Porte was also known for his love of music, his youthful enthusiasm and his mischievous spirit.

“He had a beautiful sense of humor,” Kelly recalled.

Another of his bandmates, Matthew Wright, a senior from Troutville, underscored the mixture of La Porte’s professionalism and his levity.

“His heart was always in the right place,” Wright said. “Good kid, good cadet.”

— Neil Harvey (Roanoke Times, 4/18/07)

New York Times Profile:

At the Carson Long Military Institute in Pennsylvania, a flag in the middle of campus flies at half-staff today in honor of 20-year-old Matthew La Porte, a graduate of the school who went on to Virginia Tech University.

Mr. La Porte, a sophomore attending Virginia Tech on an ROTC scholarship, loved art and music and planned to join the Air Force after college, hoping to become an officer.

Brian A. Venezio, the police chief in Mr. La Porte's hometown of Dumont, N.J., said he remembered Mr. La Porte as a former Boy Scout who played Little League and attended the local public elementary school.

After sixth grade, he left for Carson Long in New Bloomfield, Pa., where he played cello and served for four years on the Drum & Bugle Corps, eventually becoming the school's drum major. But his skill was also evident in the classroom. Graduating third in his class, he was a member of the National Honor Society.

In an oration Mr. La Porte wrote before graduating, he said he arrived at Carson Long as a troubled student who ultimately "found himself."

That troubled student, he wrote of himself, "learned how to be responsible for himself and eventually, also for others. He changed so much, that I am not quite sure if that boy and I are the same person. Now, I know that Carson Long was my second chance, and nothing could make me more proud than to be standing here today, at the end of this experience -- this journey on which most don't even dare to embark."

As a cadet leader, Mr. La Porte was often calm and calculating, displaying an ability to deal with challenges that "was just phenomenal," said Lt. Colonel Rodney P. Grove, the school's commander of cadets.

"I know that as an air force officer he would have been outstanding," he said. "I also know that he was looking for something in his life that would allow him to really make a difference in other people's lives. He was desperate to make a difference."

Mr. La Porte's family was first notified of his death by the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, of which their son was a member, and then later by the Virginia state police. Chief Venezio said he spoke with the La Porte family this morning, and described them as a private family "who are suffering greatly."

In his oration, Mr. La Porte spoke of them -- his mother, father, and sister Priscilla.

"You've been relentless and persistent, putting your all into me," he wrote. "I love you. And Dad, I hope that I've become a man in your eyes, and that whatever I do in life, you are proud of me."

Military discipline changed a life
USAToday Profile

Matthew La Porte, 20, a sophomore from Dumont, N.J., studied French and political science. He was a member of the Corps of Cadets, a military training program within Virginia Tech, and joined its regimental band, known as the Highty-Tighties. He also belonged to the Air Force ROTC.

La Porte said his life changed at the Carson Long Military Institute in New Bloomfield, Penn., which he attended from 1999 to 2005. "I know that Carson Long was my second chance," he said in a graduation speech that was printed in the school yearbook.

"Matthew was an exemplary student at Carson Long whose love of music and fellow cadets were an inspiration to all on campus," the school said in a statement. La Porte graduated third in his class.

On his MySpace page, La Porte said he belonged to Carson Long's ski and glee clubs and worked as a lifeguard in the summer.

He said he liked heavy metal music — but also the movie Finding Nemo and the TV show SpongeBob SquarePants.

Washington Post Profile:

The news of the death of Matthew La Porte, 20, stunned his neighbors in Dumont, N.J. Electricity and phones had been out during the day after a nor'easter swept through the quiet town 20 miles northwest of Manhattan. The La Porte family did not know the fate of Matthew until late Monday, said the family's priest and neighbors.

That's when the family -- mother Barbara, father Joseph and younger sister Priscilla, a high school senior -- got the call.

"What is there to say? What can I tell you?" Joseph La Porte said in a phone interview yesterday morning. "All I could tell you is he was in the corps of cadets at Virginia Tech, in his second year. He had an Air Force scholarship. I can't tell you any more," he said as he began to weep. "Every time I talk, I just break down."

The family's immediate concern, said their priest, the Rev. James Bouffard of Sacred Heart Parish, was to inform Matthew's elderly grandparents as gently as possible, and they set off in the car on the grim mission.

Neighbors soon got the news themselves. "I'm stunned," said Marie Grieco, 56, who lives next door, as she set to work cooking up penne for a pasta salad.

La Porte was quiet but funny, friends and neighbors said. He attended church with his family on Sundays whenever he was in town. He was long and lanky and often wore a buzz cut from his military training.

In eighth grade, La Porte had chosen Carson Long Military Institute in Pennsylvania to provide the discipline that would boost his grades and help him get into a good college, said Dane Rogich, 20, who grew up a few blocks away.

At Virginia Tech, word was that La Porte had died a hero.

Jim Tenney, 19, played trumpet in the regimental band, Band Company; La Porte played tenor drum. He said cadets were told of La Porte's death Monday night by another cadet. In the end, the cadet said, La Porte was killed while trying to help those around him.

Bouffard said: "What some people call instinct is simply acting on what you know to be right." Then he quoted John 15:13: "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends."

-- Robin Shulman, The Washington Post

Chronicle of Higher Education Profile:

Matthew La Porte was always very calm, he did not speak too much, and people who did not know him often had trouble figuring him out. They “saw him as some kind of rebel with no cause, or just a strange kid,” says his friend, Steven Carvellas.

But friends and teachers of Mr. La Porte, 20, say the sophomore was secretly brilliant, and a rare student who always had a plan for what he wanted to do next.

Garry Hallman, who taught Mr. La Porte at Carson Long Military Institute, a boarding school in Pennsylvania, says it was not until he started getting the student’s quiz results back that he realized Mr. La Porte’s intelligence. Mr. Hallman says he gives one test every year, on political geography, that no cadet had ever finished without a mistake.

“They leave there crying from it,” Mr. Hallman says. “He got a hundred.”

Mr. La Porte spent six years at Carson Long, more than nearly anyone else, Mr. Hallman said, and moved on to study political science at Virginia Tech with an ROTC scholarship. He told friends he was training for the Air Force, where he wanted to become an intelligence officer. They say his natural habits — getting up early, studying intensely, keeping to a strict schedule — would have served him well.

“I remember him as being one of those kids who probably didn’t need to go to military school,” his friend, Joe Kim, wrote in an e-mail message.

Mr. Carvellas, who also went to Carson Long, said in a Facebook message that Mr. La Porte was a constant role model. He shared a letter that Mr. La Porte had written in his yearbook in his senior year at military school.

“I see a smarter person inside you,” Mr. La Porte wrote. “Let him out. Let everyone know who you are. Smart people accomplish great things.”

Josh Keller

He'd turned his life around
Philadelphia Daily News

Matthew La Porte believed he was blessed with a second chance in life.

The self-described "troubled boy" from North Jersey entered seventh grade at a military boarding school in 1999 filled with doubt and bitterness.

But during his years at Carson Long Military Institute in central Pennsylvania, La Porte turned himself around. He forged friendships, got good grades and evolved into a campus leader.

In a heartfelt yearbook entry, La Porte described a spiritual journey, a metamorphosis from foolish boy to responsible man upon his 2005 graduation with top honors.

"He felt himself changing," La Porte wrote. "He changed so much, that I am not quite sure if that boy and I are the same person. Now I know that Carson Long was my second chance. . . . I'm ever thankful. I've made it."

His second chance was short-lived. The 20-year-old Virginia Tech freshman from Dumont, N.J., died Monday in the nation's deadliest school shooting.

In one cruel instant, a gunman on a rampage ended La Porte's path to redemption.

"Mom, I'm sorry if I ever disappointed you," La Porte wrote in his yearbook. "Dad, I hope that I've become a man in your eyes, and that whatever I do in life, you are proud of me."

Yesterday, La Porte's MySpace page was flooded with tributes from friends who knew him by his nickname, "Turtle."

"I know you aren't reading this but I'm not really sure what to say," one friend wrote. "You were a great guy, and you deserved all of the wonderful opportunities life can give you."

La Porte brimmed with opportunity. At Carson Long, he had been a member of the drum and bugle corps, the color guard and the glee club. He played baseball and soccer. He won a scholarship to Virginia Tech.

He loved rock music and science-fiction novels. He loved God and country. In his yearbook, La Porte quoted Patrick Henry's 1775 speech, credited with spurring the American Revolution.

"Is life so dear, or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? . . . I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"


By Wendy Ruderman

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Virginia Tech Magazine Profile (5/07)

Matthew J. La Porte loved playing music and relished the various challenges he faced as a member of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets.

Born on Nov. 20, 1986, Matt was the son of Joseph and Barbara La Porte of Dumont, N.J. He had one sister, Priscilla, who graduated from high school in spring 2007. Matt was a sophomore studying for a degree in political science.

Matt attended Carson Long Military Institute in New Bloomfield, Pa., from seventh grade through 12th. As a student there he excelled in academics and leadership and served as drum major of the cadet band. He decided to attend Virginia Tech based on the recommendation of a trusted teacher and mentor on the faculty there.

As a member of the corps of cadets, he enjoyed playing tenor drum for the Regimental Band, the Highty-Tighties. His musical expertise led to his selection as a member of the Southern Colonels, the cadet jazz band. Matt was also a Fire Team leader in his company with daily responsibilities for four other cadets.

Matt was attending college on an Air Force ROTC scholarship and was working to earn a commission in the United States Air Force. His goal was to be an intelligence officer once on active duty.

He was a bright student, and he consistently scored high marks on his physical fitness tests; peers admired his strength and stamina. He demonstrated his enthusiasm for physical fitness by joining the Air Force Special Operations Preparation Team and participating in a rigorous physical training regimen.

Considerate and mature, Matt was a cadet with unlimited potential who loved a challenge. He was working hard to prepare for Air Force ROTC summer field training, a 28-day leadership evaluation.

His family and friends, as well as the faculty and staff at both Carson Long and Virginia Tech, mourn his passing.

Memorial Scholarship

Through the Virginia Tech Foundation, the Matthew Joseph La Porte Memorial Scholarship has been established at Virginia Tech in his memory. For more information and/or to donate to this memorial fund, see VT's Hokie Spirit Memorial Funds page.