Vox Populi is Dartmouth Now’s opinion department. It includes commentary written by members of the Dartmouth community that is intended to inform and enrich public conversation. The opinions expressed in these essays are the writers’ own.
S. Caroline Kerr ’05 serves as president of DGALA, the Dartmouth Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Alumni/ae Association.
I savor those rare moments that are pinnacles of community. Moments when you have time to pause, reflect, and celebrate a community’s history, present, and future. Dartmouth’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and allied community is marking historic milestones this fall and enjoying many of these moments.
Over the weekend of Oct. 31 through Nov. 2, DGALA, Dartmouth’s LGBTQIA alumni association, celebrated its 30th anniversary with an all-class reunion that brought more than 200 alumni, students, faculty, staff, spouses, partners, and friends together in Hanover. The weekend events included the celebration of Triangle House, a new Living and Learning Community that supports LGBTQIA students.
The DGALA anniversary provided many moments when Dartmouth’s past and future came together. For some alumni, this was the first return to campus in decades, as their own time in Hanover was painful. One alumnus shared with me that he came to Dartmouth as a legacy, hoping to love the College as much as his father and his classmates had. Dartmouth wasn't a welcoming place for him, and he described feeling cheated out of that storied Dartmouth experience. But this alumnus, along with others who suffered here as students, keeps coming back. Their resilience is remarkable, and they enjoyed a weekend of events and a community that embraced them. Some encountered a Dartmouth that they could proudly reclaim.
Alumni were welcomed back to campus by the rainbow lights shining on Blunt Alumni Center, with a DGALA banner and rainbow pride flag flying from the front. The weekend began with a reception hosted by President Phil Hanlon ’77 at Rauner Special Collections Library. The special collections team pulled articles, programs, and other items out of the archives that spanned gay history at Dartmouth between 1900 and 2014. Jim Noonan ’01 and Jimmy McNicholas ’01 took the stage in Collis and performed their fabulous Dartmouth Halloween show, Go Big Queen!, to a packed audience of students, alumni, and staff.
On Saturday morning we started early with a hike up to the fire tower on Gile Mountain in Norwich. Associate Professor of Government Sonu Bedi gave a lively talk on the future of civil marriage. Mid-day, the group convened at Triangle House, a place where LGBTQIA and allied students can spend time talking about topics related to their community, intellectual life, and social justice.
The first residents of the house moved in this fall, and the opening ceremony celebrated the long road to making Triangle House a reality, including the role alumni have played, from advocating for its existence, to serving on planning committees, to raising more than $500,000 to date to support construction and almost $90,000 for programming—a figure that exceeded the initial $500,000 goal for construction only. The ceremony and sheer existence of the house constitute a historic moment for Dartmouth, and a most moving one for alumni.
Got Something to Say?The day continued with a talk by Eric Fanning ’90, a member of DGALA and undersecretary of the U.S. Air Force. The event was the result of a collaboration between DGALA and the Dartmouth Uniform Service Alumni group (DUSA). We then enjoyed a special tour of the Hood Museum exhibit “Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties,” and wrapped up the evening with an awards gala at which several alumni were honored. Pete Williams ’76 received the Hero Award for his exceptional dedication and decades of service as DGALA’s secretary and treasurer. Lee Merkle-Raymond ’86 received the Leadership Award as one of DGALA’s early leaders and the first female president. Amanda Rosenblum ’07 and Laura Erickson-Schroth Med ’09 received the Vanguard Award for their groundbreaking work Trans Bodies, Trans Selves.
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Sunday morning began with a celebratory service at the Top of the Hop, led by the Rev. Nancy Vogele ’85, DGALA member and director of Religious and Spiritual Life at the College. The Rockapellas performed Born This Way, Ella’s Song, and Same Love, with lyrics by rapper Angel Haze.
A member of the group spoke about how important it was to her to have alumni back on campus. Our presence, she said, helps make the College a place where she can be her full self. Andrew Nalani ’16 spoke as a straight man from Uganda whose own views have evolved over time. He gave a beautiful blessing, and we closed the weekend with a brunch and community forum discussing what’s next for DGALA.
At moments like these, I see Dartmouth at its best: innovative and inclusive. I look forward to many more in the future.