Stanford Pride event honors alumni LGBT efforts

Oct. 24, 2011, 2:01 a.m.

The LGBT alumni network Stanford Pride hosted a “40 and Fabulous” anniversary celebration for the LGBT Community Resources Center on Saturday as part of Reunion Homecoming weekend, honoring U.S. ambassador the United States Susan Rice ’86 as well as key members of the organization.

The event had over 150 people in attendance. In addition to Rice, Stanford Pride honored some of its pioneer members including Maud Nerman ’71, founder of Stanford’s Gay People’s Union, who spoke on the accomplishments of the past 40 years.

“I never in my wildest dreams thought if I lived another 30 years that there would be the changes we have seen in America,” Nerman said. “Now we have to fight for changes in the rest of the world.”

Founder of Stanford Pride Jim Haas ’63 and founder of the Lesbian Equality Foundation Kathy Levinson ’77, among others, were also honored for their contributions to Stanford Pride and the LGBT community. Levinson, founder of the annual event, said she started it to allow Stanford alumni who weren’t necessarily public with their sexual identities while at the Farm to return and connect.

Stanford Pride is an alumni group with 2,000 members. It connects Stanford students, faculty and alumni through newsletters and events, such as panel discussions on LGBT issues.

“The vast majority of our alums connect through common life experiences,” said Alumni Association President Howard Wolf ’80, who added that the Alumni Association firmly supports the group.

The group itself has three missions: engage the community, be a model club and help Stanford be a model institution for other universities. To accomplish these, Stanford Pride is starting a mentoring program to connect graduate and undergraduate students to alumni. The organization also provides the opportunity for students to intern with an LGBT-related organization through their Huffington Pride Fellowship.

Stanford Pride is also undertaking a proposition for a Center for the Study of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. The center would cross disciplines to provide a unified approach to LGBT research.

“Stanford is unique and exceptional when it comes to interdisciplinary research, teaching and learning. It is the Stanford culture,” said Stanford Pride board president Jim Farah ’86. “It’s our feeling that there is an opportunity for Stanford to bring its unique approach to interdisciplinary work to our community and our lives and our issues.”

Although the center is still early in the planning stages, the hope is that it would cross over all seven of Stanford’s schools and work to reduce the risk of teen suicide. According to Farah, the idea itself is unusual in that alumni associations don’t typically propose academic programs. Faculty would have to decide ultimately whether to make the program a reality.

“When you define part of your mission to change the world, which is Stanford’s mission, and then you take an alumni club like Stanford Pride that defines its mission as helping Stanford be a model institution, this [the Center] makes perfect sense,” said Farah.

At the event itself, Rice spoke about the U.N.’s work to promote LGBT rights.

Under Rice’s leadership, the United States is now a member of the U.N. LGBT core group. On Jun. 17, the U.N. Human Rights Council, with the United States in the lead, adopted a resolution advancing the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons and a U.N. report has been commissioned to investigate the challenges that LGBT people face, she said.

“At the U.N., countries are finally beginning to codify and enshrine the promise of equality for LGBT persons, and as they do so the world will become a safer, more respectful and a more humane place for everybody,” Rice said.

She spoke of the many steps toward LGBT rights by the United Nations and President Obama, including the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the reversal of the Bush administration’s decision not to sign the U.N. General Assembly statement on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Quite frankly we couldn’t figure out why it was that the United States had not been an original signatory,” Rice said.

“She is our representative to the world,” said Gautam Raghavan ’04, current White House liaison to the LGBT community and organizer of the event.

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