Newest alumni affinity group celebrates Notre Dame’s LGBT community

The Alumni Rainbow Community of Notre Dame (ARC ND) hosted a weekend celebration titled “ND LGBTQ+ Alumni—Past, Present & Future—A Celebration of our Community’s Journey” on campus from April 8–10. Events included an award ceremony to recognize leaders who have championed LGBT rights in the public eye, an academic panel called “ND LGBTQ+ Alumni—Honoring Our Community’s Journey,” and a “Weekend Farwell [sic] Event – Welcome ARC ND,” which included Mass and brunch on Sunday.

The Notre Dame Alumni Association (NDAA) established ARC ND in January 2021, in order “to celebrate and enrich the experiences of the LGBT members of the Notre Dame family and their allies.” Prior to ARC’s establishiment, the Gay and Lesbian Alumni of Notre Dame and St. Mary’s (GALA)—which was not officially affiliated with the university—provided a community for LGBT alumni. GALA also awarded a yearly scholarship for incoming LGBT students at Notre Dame. That scholarship is now awarded by ARC ND and is officially recognized and funded by the university.

During the Thomas Dooley & LGBTQ+ Leadership Award Ceremony, ARC ND gave awards to four people: actress Marlo Thomas, Notre Dame alumnus Greg Bourke, local transgender activist Meghan Buell, and Fr. Joe Corpora, C.S.C., Assistant Director of Pastoral Care Outreach in Notre Dame’s Campus Ministry and priest in residence in Dillon Hall.

Fr. Joe Corpora, C.S.C. received the “Outstanding Faculty/Staff Award in Support of the Notre Dame LGBTQ+ Campus Community” for “demonstrating a strong commitment to help LGBTQ students and others within the ND community.”

Fr. Corpora was chosen for the award because of his “work with students of color, economically challenged students, first generation students, and LGBTQ students” in Campus Ministry and for “working closely with Bishops and Pastors and Superintendents to make Catholic Schools available, accessible, and affordable for Latino children and families.”

Actress Marlo Thomas received the “Thomas A. Dooley Award.” Thomas is known for her starring role in the sitcom That Girl and her franchise Free to Be…You and Me, a feminist children’s entertainment project. Marlo is a longtime advocate for the LGBT community, and she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama.

South Bend resident Meghan Buell, described by ARC ND as “an out and proud transgender woman,” received the “Distinguished Service Award” for founding the Transgender Resource, Education and Enrichment Services (TREES), a group seeking to provide transgender education and resources in small towns and rural communities. Buell opened the Tree House Gender Resource Center in South Bend on March 31 and recently participated as a speaker at a “Transgender Day of Visibility” panel hosted by Spectrum, the LGBTQ & Ally Employee Resource Group of Notre Dame. 

Additionally, Notre Dame alumnus Greg Bourke, one of the named plaintiffs in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015, received the “Distinguished Alumni Award.” Bourke’s memoir, Gay, Catholic, and American: My Legal Battle for Marriage Equality and Inclusion was published by Notre Dame Press in September 2021.

GALA Board Member Jack Bergen and GALA NYC Chapter Chair John Flanagan organized the weekend. They said that GALA has hosted a similar weekend events since 1996.

“We hope to take the energy from this weekend and continue to grow the organization and to provide support for our members,” Flanagan said. “We want to continue to be out there and visible. We want to let students and alumni know that we are out there for them.”

“This weekend, for me, is all about community and fellowship, which is in alignment with the Catholic tradition and faith. There are going to be things we disagree on, but there are many areas to build a bridge between the LGBT community and the Catholic community, and I think if we focus on those we will find a lot more in common than not,” said Flanagan.

Bergen added, “No one here is advocating for same-sex marriage within the Church. That is not what we are about. We are about making sure that gay Catholics are as welcome in the Church as anybody else.”

Bergen noted that the weekend celebration serves to connect GALA, the preexisting unofficial alumni group, with ARC, which has full university support as part of the Alumni Association. Bergen explained, “We are using this weekend as a very visible opportunity to do a hand-off from the unofficial organization to the official organization … We have been striving for years to give LGBT alumni the same sort of level playing field as other diversity alumni folks.”

Director of the Alumni Association and Associate Vice President of University Relations Dolly Duffy did not respond to request for comment.

Mary Frances Myler is a senior majoring in the Program of Liberal Studies with minors in theology and constitutional studies. She hails from northern Michigan, and her ideal day would be spent hiking, swimming, and reading on the shores of Lake Superior. She can be reached at

Photo credit: Notre Dame Alumni Association