Kelly Rush ’98 recently made a donation to the LGBT Studies Department, inspired by what he refers to as “a kind of ‘perfect storm’ motivating me to give,” including HWS community support of his philanthropic efforts for Boston AIDSWalk, attendance in 2012 at the first official meeting for the LGBT community at Reunion and a desire to help the department continue to grow and meet the needs of students.
In 2011, Rush began to raise money for the Boston AIDSWalk and, in doing so, shared his personal story of being a gay teen who came of age in the woods of central Maine and the effects of a life dealing with negative LGBT stereotypes. He also began coping with an HIV positive diagnosis. Rush found the majority of the contributors to his AIDSWalk fundraising efforts were his friends from HWS.
“I raised just over $3,500 for AIDS Action Committee in about a month. Two years later, my 2013 AIDS Walk team raised just over $13,000,” explains Rush, noting more than 80 percent of these contributions were from the HWS community, including alums, staff and faculty. “More important than the money was that each one of these people heard my personal story and the HWS community responded to it not by rejecting me, but by supporting me.”
Rush also took notice of the hiring this fall of Visiting Assistant Professor of LGBT Studies Cael Keegan as HWS’ first full-time faculty member in LGBT studies. “His interdisciplinary scholarship regarding sexuality and gender can build upon the work the Colleges have done examining gender roles. His works can widen the lens of critical examination of gender, sexuality and power,” says Rush. “HWS, as an institution-and the LGBT Studies Department, in particular-can be at the forefront of academic and critical analysis of gender identity precisely because the Colleges have historically attempted to do this by using their history as a lens to examine gender.”
He hopes his gift will help the LGBT Studies Department expand programming beyond the classroom and “springboard discussion on social justice and the creation of not just a more diverse community, but a more inclusive and affirming community.” Rush plans to continue his financial support of the program and to encourage other alums to give and stay connected with the department and the Colleges.
Rush earned a B.A. in individual studies from Hobart College. As a student he was a member of the Colleges Chorale. He now is active with the AIDS Action Committee in Boston and the LGBTQ Center for the Finger Lakes in Geneva. He currently serves as admissions coordinator at Suffolk University Law School in Boston.