Monthly Archives: June 2015

The Courage to Walk toward a Better Life: Stephen Fusco 98C 01L

Stephen Fusco 98C 01L at Hillside.

Stephen Fusco 98C 01L at Hillside.

One day in a man’s life can change everything. For Stephen Fusco 98C 01L that day came when he walked away from his 12-year law career as general counsel for a medical lab to become a Georgia middle school science and math teacher at an adolescent psychiatric residential treatment facility. “I just wasn’t meant to be a lawyer,” he says in hindsight.

Fusco is indeed a courageous leader: one who is committed to giving back, making the world brighter for kids, and demonstrating that sharing human compassion often requires dedication in the most trying times. Nowadays his challenges don’t arise from solving the complicated corporate legal issues he encountered as counsel for a national medical laboratory. Instead, they come from realizing the very best way to educationally nurture and reach a child with behavioral or emotional disabilities at Hillside in Atlanta.

Radical life transformation requires guts. “I woke up one morning completely miserable,” says Fusco. In his corporate law role, “I’d been working 24/7, putting in grueling hours, and doing too much paper pushing. To leave that world behind was the most liberating and terrifying decision I’ve ever made. I had no Plan B.”

Some of Fusco's students during a field trip to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.

Some of Fusco’s students during a field trip to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.

A Universe Opens

For this Barkley Forum alumnus, following his instincts made him trade his BMW for a Kia and downsized his life. My family supported my decision. “All I knew is that I wanted to help people. I quit for no other reason than that,” he recalls.

After stints at Trader Joe’s and Lululemon where he found his equilibrium again, Fusco recognized that he’d always wanted to be a teacher. He applied and was accepted to Georgia State’s College of Education, and his new course was set. Quickly he became a student teacher at Hillside, a residential school and treatment facility founded in 1888 to serve children ages 7 to 21 who have severe emotional, psychological, and behavioral challenges. He has since earned his state certification and become a full teacher. As Fusco describes of this daring achievement, “My universe opened.”

Since his Emory days, Fusco has been a fierce advocate for children’s rights who served the community through the Barton Juvenile Defender Clinic. He worked on legislation that made pimping a felony in Georgia. He is also passionate about raising issues of transparency for institutions and resolving Cold Case issues surrounding children in the Department of Children and Family Services care who are least likely to be placed.  He says, “Those children on the Cold Case list are the most vulnerable to a cycle of poverty, institutionalization and prison; those children need the most services and supports from the community to break the cycle.”

Fusco translates this passion into his current role as teacher. His classroom for 9-12 children includes the services of two behavioral specialists. But Fusco is not a “sit behind the desk” teacher. Instead, he is engaging, interactive, and challenging. He often pairs students to balance learning styles and work collaboratively.  “I teach my students to think critically and use technology appropriately,” he says.

Fusco and his colleague Meghan in their Winter Festival attire.

Fusco and his colleague Meghan in their Winter Festival attire.

Tapping into his creative genes, Fusco designs educational experiences that are as much fun as they are beneficial to students.  As a member of the Atlanta Gay and Lesbian Chorus, he’s known for his singing ability. In fact, he brought “Hillside Idol” to his school and encouraged the kids to perform. Winners received personal time with a vocal coach. “It was amazing to see these kids light up on stage,” Fusco says.  “My kids exhibited more confidence than their peers at other public and private schools across the country.”  For kids who come to Hillside with significant self-esteem issues, watching them sing in front of their peers was transformative for them and the Hillside staff.”

“While the prospects of changing my entire identity seemed like a daunting task at the time, the rewards have been ineffable.  I could never have imagined, in my wildest imagination, that following my dream to help others would transform me into the person I am today.  I am an entirely different person and I came out the other side just fine.” Fusco recommends that others consider the same type of daring. “Follow your dreams and don’t limit yourself to a career or life that feels inauthentic.  There is absolutely nothing stopping anyone from following their dreams.  You can always re-invent yourself…that’s the beauty of the lifetime we have been given!”

–Michelle Valigursky

A student pauses for a moment of quiet reflection.

A student pauses for a moment of quiet reflection.

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GALA Events: Past, Present, and Future!

The annual GALA Theater Social was held on April 2nd at Actor’s Express in the King Plow Arts Center.   Alumni, students and guests gathered for wine and cheese and fun in the lobby before the event.  Our Event Planning Committee again chose an LGBT-themed work, “Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet” by Tarell Alvin McCraney.   The theme is the story of a young Black man coming to grips with his sexual  identity.  Of course, we could all relate.  It was a great Winter Social.

Save the date for our Summer Social.  On Thursday, July 30th, from 6:30 to 8:30 PM, we will party at Tin Lizzy’s Cantina at Emory Point.  Our group will have a separate area.  Your registration fee provides you with one beverage and heavy Tex-Mex appetizers.  So, plan on spending an evening with other GALA alums, students and guests to celebrate summer. To register for the event, please click here.  Tin Lizzy’s is within walking distance of campus, across from the CDC on Clifton Road.  Parking is free for 3 hours in the parking garage.  Current students  and  2014 & 2015 grads may attend as guests.

September 26th is another important save the date!  Our annual Blue Jean Brunch during Homecoming will be held at 11:00 AM in the Winship Ballroom in the Dobbs University Center.  This year our brunch will also serve as a fundraiser in support of the GALA Leadership Award and the Office of LGBT Life.  Casual attire is the order of the day, along with great food & drink.  Registration is requested.  Free parking is available in the Peavine or Fishburne parking decks.  Contact:  Latasia Woods at 404-727-8412, or latasia.woods@emory.edu.

GALA: Emory LGBT Alumni Atlanta is committed to making all of its events and programs accessible to all Emory alumni regardless of their ability to pay.  Please contact the Co-Chairs, confidentially at latasia.woods@emory.edu if you need assistance.  

GALA Executive Committee Elections in August

The GALA Steering Committee will seek nominations for positions on the Executive Committee on July 14th and elections will be held at the August 11th meeting.  Open positions include one Co-Chair position, Secretary, and one of two Officer-at-Large positions.

Pink INK and News

The Reverend Joshua Morgan Noblitt 04T, Minister of Social Justice at Saint Mark United Methodist Church, is set to throw his hat into the ring to run for the open State House seat that will be available when State Rep. Margaret Kaiser steps down to run for mayor. If elected, he would be the first openly gay man elected to the Georgia legislature.


WaterShed LogoWatershed at Peachtree, owned by Emily Saliers 85C, has been voted 2015 Best Atlanta Brunch Restaurants by GAYOT, and has also been selected as one of the Best Celebrity Owned Restaurants by USA Today. Emily’s restaurant was one of the first to promote the farm-to-table movement more than a decade ago, and gets its name from an Indigo Girls’ song.


Scott Turner Schofield 02C is currently on the Bold and the Beautiful. With 30 million global viewers, it is the most watched TV show in the world. The acclaimed diversity educator officially joined the cast of the CBS daytime soap, The Bold and the Beautiful, on May 8. The role will mark both Schofield’s television debut and the first time a transgender actor will play a major, recurring role on a daytime program.


Pride Logo

Cameron Coppala 16C has been elected as President of Emory Pride for 2015-2016. Cameron was the 2014 recipient of the GALA Leadership Award. Emory Pride is the undergraduate LGBTQ and Ally organization dedicated to creating a safe, inclusive, and accessible campus for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Their mission is to to provide Emory students with opportunities to engage in advocacy, education and social interactions to create a stronger and more inclusive queer and allied community. Other members of the Executive Board of Emory Pride include: Vice President of External Affairs: Anthony Chau 18C; Vice President of Internal Affairs: Duy Nguyen 17C; Secretary: Margee Quinn 16C; Treasurer: Ana Beain 16C; and Publicity Representative: Katya Miranda 18C.


Danielle Steele has been appointed Interim Director of LGBT Life and the Center for Women. She has served as Interim Director of the Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Life since last June. In this joint role, Danielle will continue to strengthen the programs, services and initiatives for both LGBT Life and the Center for Women. In other big news for Danielle, she and Keisa Bruce were married in Washington, D.C. in Meridian Hill Park on July 17th, 2014.


How I shed picAlonquin Books has published a memoir, How I Shed My Skin: Unlearning the Lessons of a Racist Childhood, by Jim Grimsley, Emory Professor of Practice in Creative Writing . Jim’s first novel, Winter Birds, won the 1995 Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His second novel, Dream Boy, won the American Library Association GLBT Award for Literature (the Stonewall Prize), and was a Lambda finalist. His third novel, My Drowning, was released in January 1997 by Algonquin Books, and for it he was named Georgia Author of the Year. His fourth novel, Comfort & Joy, was a Lambda finalist. A fantasy novel, Kirith Kirin won the Lambda in the science fiction and horror category for 2001. He has published short fiction in The Ontario Review and Asimov’s, and his stories have been anthologized in The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Volume 16, Men on Men 4, Men on Men 2000, and Best Stories from the South, year 2001. Boulevard, published in 2002, was again a Lambda finalist in the literature category, and won Jim his second Georgia Author of the Year designation. His novel, The Ordinary, a science fiction novel published in 2004 by Tor Books, won a Lambda in the science fiction/fantasy/horror category.


Ryan B. Roche 03Ox 05C has completed his term as President of the Oxford Alumni Board, and will be back in the saddle with the Steering Committee of GALA: Emory LGBT Alumni. Ryan also serves as co-chair of the Auction Committee of the Human Rights Campaign-Atlanta, and is on the Board of the Atlanta Pride Committee, Inc.
Dr. Elliott Mackle 77G continues to receive accolades for his most recent novel, Sunset Island. His first novel, It Takes Two, was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award as Best Gay Mystery of 2003. Elliott was the first co-chair and a founder of GALA: Emory LGBT Alumni. Elliot was also the former dining critic for the Atlanta Journal Constitution and a longtime Creative Loafing columnist.


Out in BusinessRenee Weese 02 EMBA and Markbradley Kitay 14B were panelists at the “Out in Business” networking event on April 16 at Goizueta Business School. Over 50 students and alumni attended. Renee is a financial planning consultant with the Minerva Planning Group. Markbradly is an Associate Business Analyst at Ernst and Young in Atlanta


Dr. Aby Parsons 13G, Director of the LGBTQIA Resource Center at the Georgia Institute of Technology, was recently honored by the University with two awards, The Outstanding Staff Performance Entrepreneurship Award celebrates staff who best exemplify the values and approach of the strategic business operations framework, and is given in recognition of efforts that impact a department or unit. The Georgia Tech Residence Life Cornerstone Award honors Aby for establishing partnerships between the LGBTQIA Resource Center and Housing and serving as a resource and support to housing students and staff.

Update from the Office of LGBT Life

LGBT Life Pic

The Office of LGBT Life had a busy and exciting spring semester, filled with several events.  In particular, the Office hosted three networking nights as part of the “Out in…” series.  Designed to connect LGBTQ students with out faculty, staff, and professionals in their fields of interest, the “Out in…” series has grown this year to include multiple campus sponsors and collaborators.

First, on February 23rd, the Office partnered with the Career Center to host Out in Healthcare.  Held in the School of Medicine, students pursuing or thinking of pursuing careers in healthcare were able to connect with faculty, professionals, and alumni in medicine, public health, nursing, and allied health to discuss the advantages and challenges of being out in their respective fields.  Additionally, students were able to connect with one another across year and school to form a broader LGBTQ healthcare community.

In April, the Office coordinated back-to-back networking events with Out in Law and Out in Business.  Student organization OUTLaw helped secure space, and Office of LGBT Life Advisory Committee member Tim Holbrook invited members of the Stonewall Bar Association to network with current and prospective law students to discuss degrees of acceptance in various law fields.  Later that same week, the Goizueta Business School and the Career Center collaborated with the Office to host the Out in Business networking night and panel.  Office of LGBT Life Advisory Committee member Sei Yoshioka-Cefalo worked with the Office to secure a diverse panel of current and former Goizueta students, including GALA members Renee Weese 02EMBA and Markbradley Kitay 14B, to discuss the topics of coming out in different business settings and the challenges and advantages of being out in applications, interviews, and the workplace.  Many thanks to all of the alumni who helped make this year’s “Out in…” series a success!

In March, the Office celebrated the 23rd Annual Pride Awards at the Miller-Ward Alumni House.  Office of LGBT Life Advisory Committee members recognized this year’s winners who included students, alumni, organizations, and faculty members who represent the Office’s mission of creating an affirming and just campus environment.  Awards included the Outstanding Transgender Advocate Award, Outstanding Ally of the Year Award, Chesnut LGBT Person of the Year Award, Fierce Leadership Award, Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe Keeping the Faith Award, and the GALA Leadership Award.  The Alum of the Year was GALA’s own Malcolm Bruni, 92C.  In addition to the award winners, student leaders who received support from the J. Michael Aycock Leadership Development Fund and D. Daniel D. Adame Student Leadership Fund were recognized.  Finally, 2015 graduates were recognized for their academic achievements with lavender diplomas and rainbow graduation cords.  Congratulations to our award winners and our graduates!

Finally, the spring semester ended with the announcement that Danielle Steele, current Interim Director of the Office of LGBT Life, has also assumed the role of Interim Director of the Center for Women at Emory.  In this joint role, Danielle will continue to strengthen the programs and lead strategic planning efforts for both the Office of LGBT Life and the Center for Women.

As always, alumni involvement continues to benefit our students. Contact Danielle Steele at dmsteel@emory.edu if you are interested in being more involved with the Office of LGBT Life.  Thank you!

GALA Advocacy Supports Students

GALA’s Mission Statement includes two important goals: “support and advocate for a diverse and non-discriminatory working, living and learning experience at Emory” and “advocate for issues of importance to the larger LGBT community.” As an Emory Alumni Association Affinity Group, the GALA Steering Committee has taken on several issues of advocating for current and future students at Emory. To date, the issues which GALA has advocated for have all had positive, meaningful outcomes for the campus environment.

Starting in 2011, students and alumni began a discussion on the values of Chick-fil-A and its owner Dan Cathy and what it meant to be home of the oldest campus Chick-fil-A. Over the course of the next year, our community and allies came together to make a stand. GALA wrote a letter to President Jim Wagner in August of 2012, urging the university to sever ties with a corporation who actively supported LGBT discrimination. Members of the Steering Committee also attended a protest outside Cox Hall.

During the same month, GALA also wrote to Dean Lawrence Benveniste of Goizueta Business School urging them to change the location of a mandatory student retreat held at WinShape Foundation. WinShape was founded by Truett Cathy and assisted Chick-fil-A’s harmful campaigns against LGBT people. During the Spring of 2013, the University announced that Chick-fil-A would no longer be a part of Emory’s food court in the next academic year. And starting in 2013-14 academic year, Goizueta no longer used WinShape’s campus for mandatory student retreats.

However, the raising up of homophobic values did not stop with the removal of Chick-fil-A. In the fall of 2013, the Candler School of Theology awarded the “2013 Distinguished Alumni Award for Service to the Church” to Eddie Fox. Fox is known for his anti-gay views, which he has preached for nearly half a century. GALA Steering Committee passed a motion and wrote a letter to Dean Jan Love to rescind the award, make a public statement of Candler’s values, and rewrite the award criteria.  Dean Love responded with a declaration of support for LGBT people and initiated the process to change the selection criteria.  However, the award was still given to Eddie Fox, in absentia. This prompted students and alumni from several of Emory’s schools to rally in protest at the awards ceremony.

The spring semester of 2015 has been very busy for Emory Students and GALA alike. Fire Chief Kevin Cochran was fired from his position by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed in January due to his publishing of an anti-gay book. Citing the safety of Atlanta employees and citizens, Reed indicated Cochran’s book caused doubt that he would treat LGBT people indiscriminately. While there is still a case pending in federal court, GALA quickly wrote a letter of support to Mayor Reed for upholding the City’s commitment to non discrimination.

In February, GALA again wrote to President Wagner in support of a student initiative. This time, displaying the qualities of allyship, GALA signed on to Freedom at Emory’s call for public disclosure of admissions and financial support for undocumented students at Emory. With support from over 80 professors, several Alumni groups, and numerous students, Freedom at Emory secured scholarships for incoming undocumented students. The initiative working to ensure the University changes its policies to clarify that Emory accepts and will support undocumented students.

As the battle moves forward to allow acts of exclusion and discrimination justified by religious beliefs, the co-chairs of GALA penned in March an informative article, which was published in the Emory Wheel to raise awareness of the issue.  While the bill is currently static, it will still be passable starting in January, when the second half of the biannual Georgia General Assembly reconvenes.

GALA will continue to take an active role fighting for the rights and acceptance of LGBT students at Emory and in Georgia. To date, each action that GALA has supported has made positive progress and we will utilize this momentum to continue the good fight.

Letter from the Co-Chair June 2015

EAA_emailheaders_gaylesbian_atlanta

One factor that first led me to join GALA two years ago was the breadth and diversity of the organization’s work. GALA is not a single-purpose group. In fact, its mission outlines 8 substantial commitments to Emory’s LGBT communities, including supporting students, offering networking opportunities for alumni, and engaging in LGBT advocacy at Emory and beyond.

Since our last newsletter, we’ve hosted a dinner for our LGBT graduates at the Office of LGBT Life’s Pride Awards, enjoyed our annual theater outing to Actors Express, participated in the inaugural Out in Business networking event with Goizueta students, and honored Nowmee Shehab, 16C, with the GALA Leadership Award.

At recent monthly meetings, GALA members have also turned their attention to critical advocacy issues on and off campus. Earlier this year, GALA wrote a letter to President Wagner in support of Freedom at Emory, a student group working to secure financial aid for undocumented students. We were thrilled to learn in April that President Wagner listened to the concerns of students and alumni and made the courageous decision to begin offering aid to undocumented students from Fall 2015 onwards.

Then, in March, the Emory Wheel published an op-ed by GALA concerning the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, urging the larger Emory community to learn about and speak out against this discriminatory piece of legislation.

Engaging in advocacy has been a rewarding and galvanizing experience for many of our members, but I know that it’s not for everyone. Maybe you’re just looking to network with other LGBT alumni, gain writing and editing experience on our newsletter, hone your fundraising skills, or mentor a student. What’s amazing about GALA is that it offers all of these opportunities and more.

If you’ve been on the fence about joining (or rejoining!) us, I encourage you to reach out to me or any member of our Executive Committee with your questions or suggestions. I guarantee that you’ll receive a warm welcome and find something that fits your interests and your schedule.

In pride,

Aby Parsons, 13G

Co-Chair, GALA: Emory LGBT Alumni