First LGBT Gathering at Reunion – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

First LGBT Gathering at Reunion

On Saturday afternoon in the Cellar Pub, a group of alums, ranging from the classes of 1955 to 2012, gathered for the first official LGBT gathering at Reunion.  For William Robertson ’60 this event marked his Hobart coming out. “When I was here in the 60s, I was in the closet.  It wasn’t safe otherwise. This reunion is my coming out!”

“This was a good start and we hope to make this a regular part of HWS Reunion,” said  James-Henry Holland, associate professor of Asian Language and Cultures, who was one of the professors in charge of organizing this event.  Alums chatted about their lives since HWS and about life at HWS when they were students, including the evolution of the Pride Alliance and the Pride theme house. Many had been involved in Pride Alliance during their time at the Colleges and the general consensus was that things had changed a lot over the years and mostly for the better.  The group also discussed ways of reaching out to other LGBT alums.

Julie Kotok Taft ’97, who now works as a substance abuse counselor, is pleased. “The school has changed significantly, especially through the 90s, with the change in curriculum to include LGBT studies and the focus on service learning.  Students get more experience outside of their usual circles and broaden their perspectives.”

Kelly Rush ’98 reflected on the LGBT community from his time at HWS. “I remember the gay community as being very close knit; everyone knew each other. It was a very supportive group of people.” Back in the 90s, according to Taft and Rush, it became safer to be out on campus, but there was still some homophobia on campus. 

Professor of Women’s Studies Betty Bayer also attended the meeting and hopes for “a bolder gathering next year.” Holland noted that while a lot of the people he expected to attend were there, there were also some newcomers.

“We had a couple of people show up who weren’t already on our radar screen, graduates [such as Robertson] from a time past when being gay on campus required a very secure closet.”  

Contact James-Henry Holland at for more information on how to get more involved with LGBT alumni activities.