With homecoming approaching this weekend, students and alumni look forward to the chance to celebrate the return of Cornell football. But for the Cornell University Gay and Lesbian Alumni Association, the upcoming festivities will serve as an opportunity to honor a trio of achievements beyond the gridiron: “50+ years of LGBTQ+ Advocacy at Cornell,” the 25th anniversary of the LGBTQ Resource Center and the grand opening of the Loving House, a new LGBTQ program house that opened this semester.
CUGALA began as a small student organization in 1969, but the scale and presence of its alumni network has grown over the past 50 years. Now, as one of the oldest and largest LGBTQ university alumni networks in the country, it includes over 3,000 members as well as straight allies. From Ithaca and beyond, CUGALA aims to foster a more welcoming space for members of the LGBTQ community with its increasingly active executive board.
Although this is not CUGALA’s first time attending homecoming at Cornell, this is the first year the group is planning bigger events designed to engage both alumni and current students of the LGBTQ community.
“We always just join the Diversity Alumni Program tailgate, but we’re adding to it this year,” said Kim Gillece ’04, vice president of CUGALA. “The more we can engage with students, the more they realize they can join our supportive network after graduation as well.”
This year, CUGALA plans on kicking off homecoming weekend on Friday with a student and alumni reception at the Physical Sciences Building before walking to North Campus for a tour of the new LGBTQ+ program house — the “Loving House” — in Mews Hall. On Saturday, following the tailgate and football game, there will be an off-campus alumni and upperclassmen dinner, featuring speaker Carlisle Douglas, the first permanent coordinator of the LGBT Resource Center at Cornell.
“We’re really happy that we have a stronger presence now nationwide and on campus as well,” Gillece said, “especially since Loving House has been an idea for the longest time, and seeing it finally come to fruition for students to finally feel a sense of community, is really wonderful.”
Currently, CUGALA works with Christopher Lujan, associate dean and director of the LGBT Resource Center at Cornell, to host and coordinate events back on campus, and is looking forward to collaborating with Loving House to involve the community in future reunions and events as well.
In addition to CUGALA, a number of other groups will host meetups during homecoming weekend, with a walking Arts Tour planned by the College of Architecture, Art and Planning and the College of Arts and Sciences to explore fine arts collections around campus. There will also be a plaque dedication and reception in remembrance of the 50th anniversary of the 1969 occupation of Willard Straight Hall by the Africana Studies and Research Center.