Category Archives: alumni updates

Letter from GALA Co-Chair

Scot S

As my GALA Co-Chair term comes to an end, I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on some of GALA’s highlights from the past two years. I am most proud of GALA’s advocacy work. During the 2015-2016 academic year we encouraged Emory President James Wagner to stand up against the Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a bill that was eventually defeated in the Georgia General Assembly. During the spring and summer of 2016, GALA communicated directly with Dr. Ajay Nair, Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life, and his staff to ensure that the Office of LGBT Life would continue to exist and receive adequate funding after the reorganization of Campus Life. These are just two advocacy initiatives in which we have engaged during the past two years, and they stand on a strong foundation of advocacy work that GALA has spearheaded for almost a decade. We would love for you to join us as we continue to fight for LGBTQ+ rights at Emory and beyond.

Another highlight of these past two years has been witnessing how GALA’s efforts directly benefit current Emory students. Our GALA Leadership Award recognizes student leaders who are working to positively impact LGBTQ+ communities at Emory. In addition to honoring these students, the award provides financial assistance that helps students continue to focus their efforts on supporting LGBTQ+ communities. There are also several other funds that were started by Emory alumni and that provide professional development opportunities for LGBTQ+ students and allies, such as the Dr. Daniel D. Adame Leadership Fund and the J. Michael Aycock Leadership Development Fund (learn more at http://www.lgbt.emory.edu/resources/leadership_funding/index.html). These opportunities were not available when I was an Emory student, and I am grateful that Emory alumni continue to support LGBTQ+ students.’

The future of GALA is bright. There are many GALA staples that Emory alumni look forward to every year: the Blue Jean Brunch, our Emory Cares Day Project, our spring theater outing, and our summer and winter socials. In addition to these events, we are always looking to organize new and exciting opportunities for alumni to gather and support each other. Please join us at our next Steering Committee meeting and share your ideas! We would love to hear from you. Our next meeting is on June 13, 2017 at the Miller Ward Alumni House. A light dinner is served at 6pm, and the meeting starts at 6:30pm. We hope to see you soon!

 

In pride,

Scot Seitz

Emory College ‘09

Co-Chair, GALA: Emory LGBT+ Alumni

Update From Office of LGBT Life

We wrapped the year up nicely here in the Office of LGBT Life! The second semester of this school year definitely flew by, but not without our slipping in some final programming!

In early April, the office’s professional staff participated in Emory Pride’s first Pride Faculty/Staff dinner. Along with several other out faculty and staff across Emory, we had the opportunity to connect with students, share our experiences, and offer guidance on navigating being out on a college campus.

To foster community among our Queer Discussion Groups (QDG), we hosted an end-of-year gathering in the office with food, snacks, and games. Over 25 people turned out, and almost a dozen signed up to be QDG facilitators next year! We are thrilled about how these groups are taking off!  (Picture Above)

As we prepared to close on a great year, we hosted Study Nights from reading day through the last day of finals, fully stocked with refreshments, coloring pages, and 2 dozen shades of nail polish!

During commencement ceremonies, we housed a regalia donation box, in collaboration with the First Generation Low-Income Partnership, in an effort to encourage students to return caps, gowns, stoles, and other pieces of regalia they don’t plan to use in the future.

Finally, we administered and gathered data on a needs assessment for the office, incentivizing with a chance to win one of ten $10 Barnes and Noble gift cards. Focused on understanding how we could better serve students, improve programming, and provide a more inclusive space, the needs assessment will help to shed light on our current practices. We will be sure to keep GALA up to speed on the results.

Looking forward, we are eager to begin planning and calendaring for the next academic year, and excited to have a bit of quiet time this summer to do so. As the DUC continues to undergo construction, we will keep everyone abreast of our office hours and any other updates via social media and email.

As always, Director Danielle Bruce Steele and Emory’s Office of LGBT Life would like to extend their thanks to GALA for continuing to support the work we do within the community. We would never be able to have such successful programming without your help! Please contact Danielle Bruce Steele at dmsteel@emory.edu if you are interested in being more involved with the Office of LGBT Life. You can also keep up-to-date with our activities through our Facebook page.

 

Annual GALA Theater Outing

On March 26th, approximately 20 GALA alumni and friends gathered at Actor’s Express to view Matthew Lopez’s 2015 play, The Legend of Georgia McBride. As always, prior to the curtain, we enjoyed a light party of wine & cheese , snacks — and, of course, great fellowship.

The play is a hilarious comedy about a straight, married, young Elvis Impersonator who struggles to support his family. Encouraged by his wife, however, he very reluctantly finds a true path to prosperity by performing drag in a Floridian Dive Bar…and he’s really good at it!

Our group had a great time. We also learned about a Gay theater group named Gays for Plays (gaysforplays.com). This is a social group highlighting year round, local, LGBT theater. You can contact Warren Gump (97B) for more information.

Coming up on the GALA social calendar is our annual Summer Social. This year we will be guests at the home of alum Gerry Lowrey for a party on his deck. Don’t worry. If it rains or is too hot, we’ll just go inside. The exact date of the party is not yet finalized, but will be on a weekday evening in July or August. We’ll let you know when the registration page is available online.

And you should save the date of October 21st for our Annual Blue Jean Brunch during Homecoming. You don’t want to miss that!

Office Celebrates 2017 Pride Awards

The Office of LGBT Life held the Annual Pride Awards on Thursday, March 2, 2017, celebrating graduating LGBTQA students, acknowledging stand out members of the Emory community, and commemorating the campus wide protests that took place 25 years prior. The event, filling the Governor’s Hall of the Miller-Ward Alumni House, highlighted the contributions of 32 graduating students, a mix of both graduate and undergrads.

Student leaders who received support from the J. Michael Aycock Leadership Development Fund and Dr. Daniel D. Adame Student Leadership Fund were also recognized for their eagerness to explore issues affecting LGBTQ communities. GALA Leadership Award winner, Victoria Alarcon 17C, was recognized for her numerous contributions to Emory’s LGBTQ community through leadership and activism. The Office of LGBT Life also presented six other awards to various students, staff, and alums who have done considerable work to improve the experiences of LGBTQ folks in Emory’s community. The awardees are listed below:

2017 HONOREES

Outstanding Transgender Advocate Award
Everett B. Arthur, 17L
Student
Emory University School of Law

Outstanding Ally of the Year Award
Jill Camper
Associate Director for Student Life
Emory University School of Law

Chesnut LGBT Person of the Year Award
Marcel W. Foster, 17PH
Student
Emory University Rollins School of Public Health

Fierce Leadership Award
C. Holly Lewis, 17PhD, 19M
Student
School of Medicine

Sonia Chinai, 17C
Student
Emory College of Arts and Sciences
with LGBT fraternity and sorority members.

Alum of the Year Award
Gerry Lowrey, 81G
Alumnus

Out on Campus

Megan Pendleton is our new Assistant Director of the Office of LGBT Life at Emory.  Neil Vasudeva, Member-at-Large for GALA., recently spoke with Megan about her Emory experience and her goals for The Office.

Neil:  Could you start by telling me a little bit about your background and how you found your current role at Emory in the Office of LGBT Life (The Office)?

Megan:   Sure! Well, I’m originally from Baltimore, MD, where I was born and raised with my two younger sisters. For college, I went a little more north and attended Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, which is about an hour or so from Philadelphia. I majored in Environmental Engineering, although by the end of my junior year, I found more meaning in my co-curricular involvements (as an Orientation Leader, a sexual violence peer educator, and a member of the Black Student Union and Spectrum). After college, I decided to pursue internships and other career opportunities in student affairs, and after two years attended UGA’s College Student Affairs Administration Master’s program. After my time in graduate school, I was hired as a Senior Coordinator in Multicultural Services and Programs at UGA, and a year later became the Assistant Director of the office. That role led me to this past fall, when I transitioned into the position here in the Office of LGBT Life.

My passion in student affairs has always been to support, empower, and encourage students to find and use their voices. In many ways, I hope to give back – to bring my experience full circle – and offer to students the same guidance, advocacy, and mentorship that my college mentors gave me. Most often this has come in the form of supporting historically minoritized groups and helping to create pathways for their success, remove barriers, and foster the skills whereby they can navigate an institution, and more importantly, life.

Neil:  How has your experience at Emory been so far? What have you enjoyed the most about working in the Office?

 Megan:  Emory has been really great! Just a couple of days ago, I hit my 6-month mark, and felt like I’d been in a time warp. It feels like I’ve been here for much longer than that!  I attribute it to the warmth and sense of community I’ve found with colleagues here. The students are amazing, driven, and profound, and I have had the opportunity to build meaningful relationships already.  Additionally, it is nice to be on a smaller close-knit campus, and to be back (since undergrad) at a private institution.

Neil:  Would you mind sharing any aspirations or goals you may have as an Assistant Director in the Office?

Megan:  Well, I’m still soaking everything in. I can’t say too definitively what goals I’d like to accomplish yet. However, we recently conducted a needs assessment, and it looks like graduate students are longing to connect more with our space, so that will be a priority of mine in the next year; additionally, continuing to find ways to develop our students’ leadership skills, and create practices that are inclusive of our trans and gender non-conforming students, as well as our queer and trans students of color.

Neil:  In your time at Emory, what are the biggest challenges you have seen LGBT+ students face during their college careers?

Megan:  I’d say figuring out how to navigate the intersection of their identities on campus (i.e. in class, at jobs, etc.), developing methods to communicate with family members who may not be supportive, and knowing when or how to connect with the plethora of resources Emory has to offer.

Neil:  Is there advice you have to share with current Emory students who identify as LGBT+ on being out in college, in the classroom, etc.?

Megan:  Regarding coming out, my advice would be to move at a pace that is safe and comfortable for you.  Know that our office is here to offer space, to advocate for you, and to support you.

Pink Ink & News

Robert Malmborg, 67C, has spearheaded the GALA Newsletter for the past 4.5 years, and has served as a GALA Officer at Large for the past 4 years.  He has helped insure that the GALA Newsletter is a quality product, and GALA is incredibly thankful for his service.  This is the last newsletter that Robert will put together (at least for now!), and his Officer at Large term will end in August.  We owe him a debt of gratitude for all he has done for GALA!

Alumnus Spotlight

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Gerry Lowrey, Pioneer of Emory Gay History

     Asking our 2017 Alum of the Year, Gerry Lowrey, to recount the founding of GALA in 2003, I was stunned that he began his narrative in 1976.

     After graduating from Auburn University in 1969, and completing graduate work at West Georgia College, and then teaching, Gerry arrived at Emory in 1976 seeking his PhD.

     Gerry soon discovered and became part of a fledgling group of gay men and women called COGE (Committee on Gay Education). This group, founded by students in 1975, supported each other, provided speakers for Emory classes, socialized with one another, and reached out to other gay groups on Georgia campuses. Gerry became the president of COGE in 1977 and served for two years. During this time, under Gerry’s leadership, COGE sought official recognition on the Emory campus.

     Recognition was difficult. The main stumbling block was the requirement that they had to have six people, graduate or undergraduate students, who were willing to have their names published as members of this openly gay group. In the repressive atmosphere of the 1970’s, this was almost impossible. However, in 1978, six brave souls were found, application was made, and on the second try COGE became a recognized group on the Emory campus.

     Recognition was a big deal. COGE then qualified for funding (a small amount), but they were able to reserve space at the student center, sponsor educational events, and officially organize with other student groups on the Emory campus. Social events were always on the calendar as well.

     Over the years, COGE prospered, changed its name a few times, but continued to be a growing presence at Emory. Meanwhile, Gerry held numerous faculty and administrative positions, becoming an Associate Dean of Campus Life in 1986.
By 1990, Gerry moved on to Columbia University in New York as Deputy Vice President and Associate Provost. Returning to Emory in 1997, Gerry became an Assistant Director of the Alumni Association, and stayed at the Emory Alumni Association until 2007 when he was Senior Director.

     When Gerry returned to Emory In 1997, great progress had been made in the area of LGBT rights. There was an Office of LGBT Life, Emory Pride, and Gay acceptance was paramount on campus.

     Also, CEBA (Caucus of Emory Black Alumni) was the only alumni affinity group. According to Gerry, the prevailing sentiment at EAA was that CEBA was special and all other alumni should all just be one big happy family. However, CEBA’s presence prompted Gerry and others to boldly suggest that a Gay alumni group would benefit EAA.

     This idea was met with much resistance. But Gerry and others at EAA persevered. Over the next few years, other groups were granted recognition. Eventually, there was a women’s alumni group, a Latino group, an Asian group.

     By 2003, Gerry was part of a group of Gay alumni who finally prevailed. Allison Dykes, Vice President of Alumni Affairs, gave her blessing, and GALA was given recognition as the official Emory Gay alumni affinity group.

     Gerry was given the responsibility of getting the group up and running. Gerry tells how the small group sat around a table trying to come up with a name. He said they finally decided on GALA because it sounded happy and inviting, like a party. Sharon Simmons and Elliott Mackle were the first Co-Chairs. And, of course, the rest is history!

     Ever active in Gay life at Emory, in 2016 Gerry offered his Atlanta home and lake house for the leaders of the graduate Gay groups on campus to hold a retreat for the purpose of building greater cooperation among their groups. In March Gerry received the Alumnus of the Year Award at the Pride Awards reception.

Thanks, Gerry!

  • Gerry was interviewed by Robert Malmborg, Communications Committee Chair of GALA, for this article.