GALA-ND/SMC to honor SMC alumna
Nicole Caratas | Friday, April 28, 2017
The Gay and Lesbian Alumni group of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s (GALA) will host an award ceremony this weekend to honor Kristen Matha, who graduated from Saint Mary’s in 2003, with the Thomas A. Dooley Award.
Chair of the Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s chapter of GALA Jack Bergen said this award was named after Tom Dooley, a former Notre Dame student who served in the Navy.
“The Dooley award was established to recognize individuals who have been leaders in advancing the human and civil rights of LGBT individuals,” Bergen said. “Our organization chose Dr. Dooley as an inspiration for his courage, passion, commitment and for helping others and his love for Notre Dame. It also happens that he was a gay man who unfortunately had his military career end way too early as a result of his [sexual] orientation.”
Matha said she is honored to receive this award, and is also excited for the opportunity this weekend will present to others in the community.
“For some folks, this might be their first opportunity to really engage with the LGBTQ community of Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame to this level, so I’m really excited about that and continuing to build community and support around LGBTQ inclusion,” she said. “I’m honored that my work is being recognized by my peers from Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame.”
Matha is being recognized for being a leader in advancing LGBT human and civil rights during her time at Saint Mary’s and at the NCAA, where she now works, Bergen said.
“At Saint Mary’s, she was able to assist the development of a student leader workshop focused on creating a more welcoming and inclusive campus for LGBTQ students,” he said. “At the NCAA, she has championed causes to improve LGBT benefits for employees, and has facilitated numerous LGBTQ inclusion trainings for NCAA staff, student athletes and administrators. She has made a substantial impact everywhere that she has gone.”
Bergen said he hopes this award serves as an inspiration to others in the Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s community.
“By highlighting the accomplishments of someone like [Matha] and those award recipients before her, we hope to encourage everyone — including current students — to aspire to the same spirit of strength, leadership and compassion in working for change and improvement for the LGBT community,” he said.
In addition to the award ceremony — at which GALA will also announce this year’s recipient of a scholarship awarded annually to an LGBT student from Notre Dame or Saint Mary’s — there will be a networking event Friday night at Legends for alumni and students. There will also be a panel of Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame faculty and students, as well as a legal advisor, called “Reconciling Religious Freedom with Civil Rights” in Carey Auditorium in Hesburgh Library on Saturday at noon, which will explore how universities and colleges create a supportive environment for LGBT students while ensuring the rights of everyone in their communities.
Matha said she hopes that people in the Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame community are moved towards solidarity after this weekend.
“When I was a student and I was only out to a few trusted friends, I felt very alone on campus,” she said. “I hope this level of visibility gives our students a feeling of solidarity and a feeling of hope that both campuses will continue to work at creating more inclusive environments, not only for LGBTQ students, but for all students that come from underrepresented groups.”