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Change agents recognized at Pride Awards

The 20th Annual Pride Awards ceremony honored 20 Change Agents, including the late Rudolph P. Byrd. Emory Photo/Video.

In celebration of 20 years of service at Emory University, the Office of Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Life recognized 20 "Change Agents" — alumni, staff and former students cited for their courageous leadership — among the many honorees at this year's annual Pride Awards.

The change agents ranged from Michael Norris and Alfred Hildebrand, two Emory students whose treatment after a public kiss in 1991 sparked protests that laid the groundwork for change, to individuals who have served Emory's LGBT community as teachers, administrators and activists (for a full list, see the March 5 press release). 

The 27 individuals — some were honored in pairs — were recognized for working to make Emory University a more inclusive and equitable campus for LGBT people over the last 20 years, says Michael Shutt, assistant dean for campus life and director of the Office of LGBT Life.

The March 3 event drew more than 200 attendees, and the mood of the evening was one of a joyful homecoming, with music provided by Atlanta's Gay and Lesbian Chorus. "For me, one of the highlights was seeing people come together who have really changed Emory through the last 20 years," says Shutt.

During a review of Emory achievements, Shutt noted many historic indicators of the University's leadership on LGBT issues.

Not only was Emory the first university in the Southeast to offer support services for LGBT students, it has also taken a progressive stand on offering student health services to transgendered students, gender neutral housing, domestic partner benefits for same sex employees, and has released an "It Gets Better" video by President James Wagner to articulate Emory's values.

Although there continues to be challenges for Emory's LGBT community, Shutt says, "we are still moving, we are not done and the progress is happening faster and faster."

Awards were also presented from the Studies in Sexuality program; the President's Commission on Sexuality, Gender Diversity and Queer Equality (PCSGDQE); Emory Gay and Lesbian Alumni (GALA) and Emory Pride.

Dohyun Ahn, a sophomore in women, gender and sexuality studies, was presented with the Fierce Leadership Award and the GALA Leadership Award, a scholarship created to reward and foster leaders who work on behalf of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer community at Emory.

Ahn, who serves on the Office of LGBT Life's Advisory Committee, the PCSGDQE, and as the LGBT liaison to the Student Government Association, was recognized for embodying "key attributes of a student leader," including activism and academic success.

Shutt also announced creation of the J. Michael Aycock Leadership Development Fund, a $100,000 endowment from Emory alumnus John Lilly that supports leadership opportunities for LBGT undergraduate students.

The PCSGDQE co-chairs, Kristin Dunkle, assistant professor of behavioral sciences and health education, and Priyanka Sinha, director of communications and marketing at the Michael C. Carlos Museum, announced the launch of "I AM Emory."

The webpage articulates how Emory's policies, including the equal opportunity and discriminatory harassment policy and same-sex domestic partner benefits, impact the lives of LGBTQ individuals and their families, friends and colleagues.

The Pride Awards are co-sponsored by the Office of LGBT Life, Emory GALA and the PCSGDQE.

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