Tag Archives: alumni

Updates from GALA NY

Matthew Kerrigan 09B

GALA: Emory LGBT Alumni – New York will hold a holiday happy hour Tuesday, December 13. More details will be available soon. Below please find a few individual alumni updates. Please send any personal or professional updates to Matthew Kerrigan (mkerrigan86@gmail.com) to be included in future newsletters.

  • Neil Newman, 10 C, completed the New York City Marathon November 6.  He also recently began his medical residency program in Radiation Oncology, which he will complete both at Lennox Hill Hospital in New York and Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville.
  • Michael Silverman, 08C, has been actively involved in fundraising and event planning for the Trevor Project in the New York city area, The leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24.
  • Jeffrey Kern, 09B, is pursuing his MBA from NYU Stern School of business, while continuing his career in the financial services industry.


Scot SThe election season was a difficult time for many of us. No matter your political perspective, it seemed that the country became more divided, and there was a constant stream of negativity. Throughout this difficult election season, GALA has continued to work towards accomplishing our main goals: advocating for the LGBTQ+ community at Emory and beyond, providing social networking and volunteer opportunities, and supporting students through scholarships and leadership funds.

Our advocacy efforts over the past six months have focused on ensuring that LGBTQ+ students continue to have access to safe spaces and quality programming during and after the reorganization of Campus Life (http://dialogue.emory.edu/CASA2/). We are glad that the Office of LGBT Life will continue to serve students after the reorganization, and that designed safe spaces will continue to exist for LGBTQ+ students.

To provide opportunities for students and alumni to get to know each other, we hosted the annual Blue Jean Brunch during Emory’s Homecoming Weekend. We were thrilled that President Claire Sterk joined us and spoke about her support for the LGBTQ+ community at Emory and beyond. We also volunteered at Lost-N-Found Youth (http://lnfy.org/) for Emory Cares International Service Day, and we were glad to support this organization that aims to end homelessness among LGBT youth in Atlanta.

As always, we continue to provide scholarships to Emory students who positively impact the LGBTQ+ community at Emory, and we support other funds that help students attend leadership programs and access quality LGBTQ+ programing. We would love for you to learn more about and contribute to these funds. Please see http://www.lgbt.emory.edu/about/donate.html for more details.

We hope that you will join us for our Holiday Social at the Four Seasons Downtown Hotel on Thursday, December 1st from 6:00 to 9:00 PM.  You can register for the event here: http://engage.emory.edu/s/1705/alumni/index.aspx?sid=1705&gid=3&pgid=3720&cid=5727&ecid=5727&crid=0&calpgid=13&calcid=1160.

We would also love to see you at one of our upcoming GALA meetings. The next two meetings will be held on December 13th and January 10th. A light dinner is served at 6pm and the meetings start at 6:30pm at the Miller Ward Alumni House.

In pride,

Scot Seitz


GALA: Emory LGBT Alumni

Alumni Ink: Until My Heart Stops

Jim remembers, "I was a Marshall at the March on Washington in 1993. Behind me is the Washington monument and the AIDS quilt."

He remembers, “I was a Marshall at the March on Washington in 1993. Behind me is the Washington monument and the AIDS quilt.”

Jameson Currier 77C writes passionately about AIDS and its effect on the LGBTQ population. With candid sincerity in each of his 11 books and hundreds of essays, Currier is unafraid to expose his vulnerabilities.

To be a gay man in the latter part of the twentieth century meant coming to grips with a frightening, and often deadly, health reality. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, more commonly known as AIDS, had infiltrated the LGBTQ segment of the population with unprecedented reach. “The analogies that have compared the early years of the AIDS epidemic to trying to survive in a war zone were apt,” says Jameson Currier 77C. “For many gay men, each piece of news that arrived was like another bomb exploding.”

Currier, award-winning writer and founder of Chelsea Station Editions, lived through that difficult time of uncertainty. The New York Times Book Review has said of his work, “Currier is adept at drawing a fine line between the erotic and the tragic, and at telling stories ‘that although personal, are also stories of our community.’” Currier points out, “I’m not a graduate of an academic writing program; I found my voice one word at a time, often by trial and error, and often as self-therapy.”

Released last year, Currier’s book Until My Heart Stops is a breathtaking memoir that assembles a collection of more than 50 works of nonfiction written by the author over four decades, many which deal with the impact of AIDS on both his personal life and his writing. The memoir was a finalist for a Lambda Literary award, recognizing the literary achievements of LGBT books and authors. The title is reflective of a medical diagnosis Currier received: HCM or hypertropic cardiomyopathy, a condition of excessive thickening of the heart muscle for which there is no apparent cause or cure. Within the book, he thinks back to his state of mind in 1985 in Manhattan, when he was first diagnosed. “That had been a summer of fear for me, the year I hadn’t imagined myself living long enough to develop a heart problem because I was too worried about dying from AIDS.”

Until My Heart Stops is a deeply personal memoir that tackles some of society's most difficult issues.

Until My Heart Stops is a deeply personal memoir that tackles some of society’s most difficult issues.

Currier, who is HIV-negative, notes that while treatments have altered the course of HIV and AIDS since the early years of the epidemic, the impact it has had on the gay community remains. “The epidemic isn’t over for any of us who have survived the losses,” he says. “That’s why it’s important to me to keep telling these stories.”

Tackling Difficult Societal Issues – With Compassion

The journey to explore the issues facing the LGBTQ community in recent years has been fraught with challenges and landmark successes since that summer day in 1981 when The New York Times reported a rare cancer that affected gay men. For Currier, sharing truth came “in fiction and non-fiction, poetry and prose, grappling with issues and themes and searching for some sort of understanding to how the plague has shaped our lives.”

His first novel, Where the Rainbow Ends, published in 1998, details the timeline of the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. In a later essay, Currier noted, “There are many reasons why I never stopped writing about AIDS. AIDS summons up the greatest themes in literature, among them sex and death and faith, themes that are universal and prominent in every life.” AIDS and HIV, he writes, “impacted my world. It has made me the person I am today. I write about AIDS because I am still alive.”


At the Kutna Hora “bone” chapel outside of Prague.

Dancing on the Moon, his earlier collection of short fiction, was also groundbreaking. First published in 1993, Currier became “the first American writer to publish a full collection of short stories about AIDS,” the author recalls. While The Village Voice dubbed this work “defiant and elegiac,” for Currier creating the work was a cathartic way of dealing with losses around him.

With candid sincerity in each of his 11 books and hundreds of essays, Currier is unafraid to expose his vulnerabilities. He reflects in his new memoir, “I guess my time is not up either, I think, feeling the swollen colors of twilight now around me. The air is both warm and cold against the sweat of my back. And something in the universe has made me lucky. At this moment, I am happy and sober. This is something I can write about. This feeling. This is something I can try to understand.”

Editor’s Note: In addition to being the founder, publisher, and editor of Chelsea Station Editions, Currier is a senior paralegal for a media company in New York City and an LGBTQ activist in his own right.

–Michelle Valigursky

Creating Health and Building Community

Creating Health and Building Community

Raphael Coleman 10C 13MPH

Raphael Coleman 10C 13MPH

Raphael Coleman 10C 13MPH is the assistant director for prevention strategies with the Office of Health Promotion within Campus Life. He is an active member in GALA who understands the pulse of Emory students on campus.

The Office of Health Promotion is designed to foster healthy interaction between the university and its students. As they describe, “Students connect with our office to get involved in promoting health on campus. We advise several student organizations, interns and student volunteers who want to take action to promote positive psychology, better sleep, great sex, violence prevention, and general wellness.

Campus image courtesy of Emory Photo/Video

Campus image courtesy of Emory Photo/Video

What do you find most fascinating about your role on Emory’s campus?

We work on very important topics, but there is a strong understanding that nothing we do is done in silo. We always think about what works for Emory students when it comes to promoting health. We have a strong social justice foundation for how we approach health promotion, so we do think how our work impacts marginalized groups on campus. When we plan programming, we ask, how can we minimize some of the health disparities that may occur on campus?

Can you tell us the PrEP Clinic?

I also work in sexual health promotion to help coordinate the PrEP clinic with Student Health Services. Pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV, also known as PrEP, is available at Student Health Services. PrEP may be appropriate for some students at higher risk for contracting HIV. PrEP consists of a once-a-day medication; regular condom use; and routine medical visits with labs (usually every three months). Through this I have sexual health education conversations with students who are using PrEP. Emory is so responsive to preventive care. They took the lead with intentional conversations about sexual health, going above and beyond what might be expected. I’m glad to play a role in this important process.

You are a Double Eagle with two degrees from Emory. What surprises you most about Emory students?                                                                                                                        

I’m amazed by how Emory consistently attracts the same type of incredible student. They share a very similar passion for knowledge and for changing the world that we live in. Students are thinking beyond what they will do professionally and are already thinking about how their work can impact the world. They are brilliant, and many may already have professional focus. It’s so awesome. We have created an intellectual space for them that helps to develop innovators. Our students create their own businesses. They are very entrepreneurial whether their work is for profit or nonprofit.

Why do you think GALA is important?

It is so important to introduce our students to GALA alumni who remain connected to the campus. These alumni demonstrate their passion for Emory, they are doing great things professionally, and they also have a voice in shaping Emory’s policy. Many also do social justice work when it comes to bettering our communities.

Editor’s Note: Raph writes, “I work with faculty, staff, and students to build a healthy campus environment, particularly as it relates to changing the campus culture and climate around high-risk alcohol and other drug use. Prior to my current role, I held positions in residence life, student conduct, Greek Life, and health promotion. I am a Double Eagle, having earned a BS in NBB from Emory College and a MPH from RSPH in BSHE. When I am not at Emory, I enjoy hanging with friends or taking classes towards my PhD in College Student Affairs Administration at UGA! My hobbies include cooking, karaoke, taking road trips, and visiting local festivals!”



Meet Matt de Groot 11Ox 13B – Top Realtor in NYC

One of Matt's listings at 60 Beach Street, New York in the Meatpacking District.

One of Matt’s listings at 60 Beach Street, New York in Tribeca.

Buying and selling houses may keep the economy moving, but for individual homeowners the process can be daunting, to say the least. For real estate experts like Matthew de Groot 11Ox 13B, a residential agent whose team is ranked #3  in New York City, “Establishing a game plan begins with truly understanding the changing dynamics of the local market,” he says. “Detailed area knowledge is critical to transactional success and, more importantly, to client satisfaction.”

Matt de Groot 11Ox 13B

Matt de Groot 11Ox 13B

De Groot is the outgoing, detail oriented, dedicated Client Communication Director (CCD) at The Sukenik Team at Douglas Elliman – ranked “Top 200 Brokers Nationwide” by The Wall Street Journal. The team was also recently awarded as the #3 producing team in the city and ranked #1 in historic Tribeca. “We are privileged to close multi-million dollar real estate deals with everyone from a princess of a Middle Eastern country to box office stars,” de Groot says. “But it is equally important and fulfilling for us to meet the everyday needs of working New Yorkers and out-of-towners wanting to settle in our city. It’s the personality of our neighborhoods that makes going to work every day so exciting.”

In addition to understanding competitive pricing and financing models, de Groot digs deep into the social structure of his market. “Clients want to know exactly which celebrities live in which building, where the trendy social spots are, and what developmental changes are on the horizon,” he explains. Concentrating the majority of his business on the tight area that defines SoHo, Tribeca, and the West Village allows de Groot to specialize. “It’s my job to analyze my market and share that knowledge with clients.”

150 Charles Street in the West Village in the Meatpacking District.

150 Charles Street in the West Village in the Meatpacking District.

“Our business area represents a microcosm of New York City, with its own economy, night life, and day-to-day work-life balance,” he explains. “By understanding the intricacies of neighborhood buildings and blocks, I can better advise my clients on how to sell or choose their homes.”

Competition begins with “Eye Candy”

From both the buyer’s and the seller’s perspective, a home’s visual appeal is the first measure. “Every showing is a potential win for both buyer and seller,” de Groot says. “Make the most of every opportunity to close the sale.”

De Groot’s Advice to Sellers

  • Clean up and clean out. Evaluate your possessions with a hypercritical eye. If something isn’t absolutely necessary, does it really belong in your space? The rule of thumb is to declutter the most obvious items like magazines, books, toys, and off-season clothes, then pre-pack and store offsite an additional 25% of your belongings to create visual space. Renting a small storage space for boxes may help you sell your home faster.
  • Create utility. Once the space has been cleared, stand back and imagine yourself in the buyer’s shoes. Will the buyer clearly envision a functional workspace? Is the entertainment center well defined? Can someone imagine where coats might be hung or holiday decor placed? If not, you might need to pare back even a bit more.
  • Create walkways. Is your furniture the correct scale for your space? Are walkways clearly defined from room to room and can a buyer walk unobstructed through doorways and halls?  Creating movement and flow throughout the home is vital.
  • Create visual drama in every room. Create “eye candy.” Each space in your home has the potential for staging a bit of drama. Lifestyle magazines and Pinterest can give you great ideas for boosting visual impact in your space – without spending a lot of money. Make your home’s unique architectural features prominent, and showcase fine details.
  • Keep the house clean and smelling fresh. Nothing turns off a buyer faster than unsanitary spaces or powerful pet aromas.
  • Make showings an experience. Play soft classical music, infuse rooms with candlelight, and help buyers imagine themselves living in your space.  If you must cook in advance, baking is always an excellent choice, but avoid frying foods.
  • Be patient and be open to agent feedback. Responding to showing feedback and reevaluating marketing and pricing is an ongoing part of every listing process.

De Groot’s Advice to Buyers

  • Establish your financial limit. The biggest mistake buyers can make is overextending beyond their comfortable financial limit. Work with a financial advisor to establish your maximum monthly cash outlay, then seek mortgage pre-approval before beginning the hunt for a new home. In addition to your family’s monthly bills, remember to consider the price of a home, plus all associated expenses like taxes, monthly association dues, and parking fees.
  • Begin with a realistic wish list. Which functional home areas do you use on a daily basis? Do you need an eat-in kitchen, or will a dining space suffice? Does your work require a dedicated home office? How many bedrooms will suit your needs? Could you do with pet space or an outdoor play area?
  • Add bonus wishes to your list to define your dream home. Go ahead and add those “nice to have” items to your wish list for a dream home. If you find one listing that meets every requirement, it’s meant to be.
  • Evaluate desirable locations. Define boundaries for first, second, and third preferences, and be open to well-researched suggestions.
  • View listings with an open mind. Clutter can be cleaned. Paint color can be changed. Furnishings can be cleared out and replaced with your own. Decorating style should not deter you from seeing a property’s true potential. Evaluate architecture for future renovation and imagine beyond the items in a room.
  • Be patient during the negotiation process. Purchasing a home requires plenty of give and take, a great deal of paperwork, and patience. But the process will be worth the wait when you receive the keys to your new home and settle into your new neighborhood.

“Buying and selling real estate is the largest transaction most people will do in their lives,” de Groot explains. “Helping my clients to establish realistic expectations is key to the end result. I offer my clients a seamless experience and work to make the process as stress-free as possible. In most cases, it’s fun!”

For more photos please visit here.

Editor’s Note: Prior to joining Douglas Elliman, de Groot worked with another prominent residential real estate firm in Newport, Rhode Island. He began his career in the commercial real estate market while attending Goizueta. He also shares experience in financial planning. De Groot and his partner Justin Brasington 11Ox 13B,  marketing and insights manager for Dollar Shave Club, are living bi-coastal between NYC and Los Angeles – going on 7 years since meeting freshman year at Emory. 

“What We Didn’t Talk About”

Elliott Mackle 77 PhD

Elliott Mackle 77 PhD

In the days of his privileged youth in Florida, Elliott Mackle 77PhD knew some thoughts were better left unspoken. Ladies and gentlemen did not talk of sexual preferences, nor did they advertise their private pursuits. Though today’s social climate is markedly different, “Being gay is still not talked about much in polite society. But before the 70s, it wasn’t talked about – ever.”

Mackle, a career writer and Vietnam-era Air Force captain, is penning his life story with just this theme. A journey through the decades, the book will examine the changing perspectives of those around him – the initial secrecy, the early attempts at societal inclusion, the quiet and not-so-quiet protests, and eventually the acknowledgement of the rights of LGBTQ individuals in America.

Captain Elliott Mackle in his military days.

Captain Elliott Mackle in his military days.

From his influential platform as a prominent columnist, Mackle played a pivotal role in bringing about such important societal change on and off the campus of Emory University.

Finding his Voice – and Sharing His Love of Food

As a 14-year-old, Mackle needed release from daily stress. “My family was wealthy, powerful, and extremely dysfunctional,” he recalls. “I began writing to make sense of what was going on.” He got through high school and attended Vanderbilt University where he met his first mentor. To this point, praise for his writing was scarce. As a freshman he earned constructive criticism that shaped his ambition. On his first paper the instructor commented, “You can write. You’re not doing it here but you can do it.” Mackle accepted the gauntlet he’d been thrown, competed, and won the coveted freshman writing prize. “He coached me. Taught me to rewrite. I dedicated my first novel to him.”

Mackle's books are widely recognized.

Mackle’s books are widely recognized.

Military service in Italy, Libya, and California taught Mackle to run mess halls, bakeries, and other food establishments serving up to 2000 meals a day. At Beale Air Force Base, in California, the commander asked Mackle to write a column for the base newspaper about social events, personnel changes and the like. “It was a great starting point,” he recalls. “I got used to writing regularly for other people to read.”

After completing military service, and earning a doctorate in American Studies in Emory’s Institute of Liberal Arts, Mackle accepted a writing role with the State Department of Education at a time when providing proper nutrition was just coming to the forefront of school administration. With his background in volume feeding, his expertise was prized. “They could see that ‘ketchup as a vegetable’ was coming, and our job was to educate families about better choices.”

After New York Times food editor Craig Claiborne began reviewing restaurants, a trend emerged and quickly spread. People wanted to read more and more about fine dining as well as less formal fare. A bit later, while Mackle was working for the state, the popular magazine Brown’s Guide to Georgia held a contest seeking a second restaurant reviewer – and Mackle won top honors.

In short order, Creative Loafing offered Mackle a regular food column. He began to sell freelance articles to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Travel and Leisure, Food and Wine and other esteemed magazines. Eventually, the restaurant reviewing slot at the AJC opened up. Mackle applied and was invited to report and submit a sample review. The deal was sealed when the features editor invited Mackle to share a meal. Instead of choosing a fancy Buckhead establishment, Mackle opted for a classic – Deacon Burton’s Soul Food restaurant in the Old Forth Ward where hoe cakes and fried chicken were on the menu. “The meal was nothing pretentious – just real,” he says of that pivotal meeting. “The editor handed me back my copy with ‘Bravo’ penciled across the top. He created the title ‘Dining Critic’ for my regular reviews and columns in the AJC.


In – or Way Out in the Press?

“I was not hired to be a gay columnist,” he says. Mackle worked with people who were gay, though few talked openly about it. One story assignment changed his public life.

At the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Project Open Hand Atlanta invited him to help promote a local edition of a new venture that had been founded in San Francisco to provide meals to people living with the disease. “Open Hand helps people prevent or better manage chronic disease through Comprehensive Nutrition Care™,” the organization states, “which combines home-delivered meals and nutrition education as a means to reinforce the connection between informed food choices and improved quality of life.” Mackle worked the program for a week and wrote about it as a full feature. Without quite realizing it, Mackle had told his readers that he was a gay man. A top editor commented that he’d “come out in the paper.”

At this critical professional juncture, Mackle faced a choice. Retreat to neutral ground, or realize the potential in his hands. “Because I was a known figure, I knew there was value in saying I am gay,” he says. “People used to say, ‘I don’t know any gay people.” To that I’d say, ‘You sure do. You’ve been reading me for ten years.’” For the first time, Mackle “felt free to talk about my life in public.”

The AJC backed Mackle’s efforts and put their sponsorship and publicity behind his work at Project Open Hand. “For a fund-raising luncheon featuring Julia Child and Nathalie Dupree, once the paper got involved, donations went through the roof,” he says. “The power was given to me to be an instrument of good for the LGBTQ community.”

Continuing his work to shed light on LGBTQ lifestyles, in recent years, Mackle has embraced oft-taboo subjects as an award-winning mystery novelist of such classics as It Takes Two, Captain Harding and His Men, and most recently Sunset Island (the third in the Caloosa Club Mysteries series).  To learn more about Mackle’s work, please visit here.


Sunset Island is Mackle's third book in the Caloosa Club mystery series.

Sunset Island is Mackle’s third book in the Caloosa Club mystery series.

In Praise of GALA

After earning his PhD with a dissertation on the creation of the image of Florida, Mackle observed and took part in transformative events. “One turning point came in 1992, with the founding of the Office of LGBT Life. The other happened in 1997 when two men were granted the right to hold a commitment ceremony at the Oxford Chapel,” he says. Mackle credits the Emory Alumni Board (then called the Board of Governors) for paving the way for such early progress. “These events made us visible in a way that couldn’t be ignored.”

A founding co-chair of GALA, Mackle reflects on the contribution the organization has made to Emory’s culture. “GALA is good for people and it is good for the university,” he says. “If someone is scared, whether a cafeteria worker, a first-year student or a closeted professor, GALA is there for them. This is the Emory family.”

Author Elliott Mackle 77 PhD is more than just a great writer: he is a passionate dog lover who earned top national competition prizes for his miniature schnauzers.  Shown here is Grand Champion Orleans' Viennese Sachertorte. "Her call name is Sugar. In the win photo, we were named Select Bitch, meaning second best female in the breed, in the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship show in Orlando in 2012."

Author Elliott Mackle 77 PhD is more than just a great writer: he is a passionate dog lover who earned top national competition prizes for his miniature schnauzers. Shown here is Grand Champion Orleans’ Viennese Sachertorte. “Her call name is Sugar. We were named Select Bitch, meaning second best female in the breed, in the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship show in Orlando in 2012.”

–Michelle Valigursky

Letter from the Co-chair August 2015

Over recent months, our Steering Committee has, as always, been busy creating and cultivating opportunities for members to engage with GALA. We work hard to sustain our long-held traditions, such as the Blue Jean Brunch and Emory Cares, while also creating new initiatives and events, such as our Legacy Circle and our annual theater outing, now in its third year.

As Co-Chair of Emory’s LGBT alumni affinity group, it’s important to me that our engagement opportunities meet the needs and interests of our members. In this newsletter, I’ve included a link here to our member survey. Please take just a few minutes to fill that out. Your responses will have a direct impact on the work that we do. Maybe you’ve got a great idea for a program you’d like to see us work on, or feedback about how to improve the last event you went to. Whatever your experience with GALA to date, whether you’re a regular at our events or you’ve never connected with the group beyond receiving our newsletter, help us understand how we can best serve and include YOU.

You can also give your feedback in person by attending our monthly meetings. The meetings are on the second Tuesday of the month in the Miller Ward Alumni House. We always kick things off with a dinner and social at 6pm and then begin our business meeting at 6:30. All members are welcome to attend our meetings and give input into everything from our socials to our newsletter, our fundraising to our student advocacy initiatives.

If organizing isn’t for you, I hope you’ll reconnect with us during Homecoming for the Blue Jean Brunch on September 26th, our biggest event of the year.

In pride,

Aby Headshot










Aby Parsons 13G


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.

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.

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.